The Ripon Forum

Volume 54, No. 5

Veterans Day 2020

“We’re All in This Together.”

By on November 8, 2020


Second Lieutenant Bill Johnson with his children, Josh and Julie, at Williams AFB in Arizona where he was attending pilot training.

America’s military veterans are both a living testimony to the sacrifices required to preserve our freedoms, and a reminder of how comparatively few of our fellow citizens choose to risk everything to defend this great nation.

Americans are blessed to live in a time of prosperity, abundance, and comfort. Our quality of life is the envy of the world. That’s not to say 2020 has been easy with COVID-19 taking more than 200,000 lives and the disease punching our previously roaring economy in the gut. But it’s accurate to say that American innovation coupled with our free market economic system has pulled more people out of poverty than any other system in the world. It’s made getting a job, owning a home, having an iPhone, living in relative safety, buying a car, shopping in fully stocked grocery stores, having heat and air conditioning because electricity is dependable and affordable, and access to the best medical care in the world possible for many.

But none of these fruits of the American Dream are possible without veterans – because everything relies on our brave warriors standing guard at freedom’s gate day and night protecting us from those who would do us harm. And make no mistake, the wolves are always lurking.

Everything relies on our brave warriors standing guard at freedom’s gate day and night.

Fewer than eight percent of Americans are veterans, and less than one percent of our fellow citizens currently serve on active duty, or in the national guard or reserves. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that imbalance, over time it could create – in fact may already be creating – a fundamental lack of understanding of the level of sacrifices required to preserve our great nation, and an inability to fully appreciate what our veterans have done, and are doing, for us. When a bad day for many Americans might be a cancelled Uber, a broken smart phone, or rainy weather, a reality check and a different perspective about what our brave warriors face are needed.

To help with changing that perspective, I’ve introduced legislation called ‘Scholarship for Service: The Building Better Americans Act.’ This bill would encourage high school graduates to serve our country in the military (or law enforcement, firefighters, EMS, or teachers’ aides) for two years in exchange for having two years of college fully paid by a grateful nation.

Not only would this make college more affordable for young adults and give them real world experience before college, it would enable them to work with others from across our country – people from different races, political views, faiths, different socioeconomic backgrounds – and they would mutually share the common bond of being Americans first. So much of the rancorous partisanship and deep political and cultural divide we see in our country right now is because we lack empathy. It’s because we don’t really know one another. We don’t understand and embrace the feelings of Americans who feel differently than we do. We don’t talk with those different from us and learn why their views and feelings are not like ours. This must end.

We’re all in this together.

I had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for nearly 27 years. I wouldn’t take a million dollars for a day of it. It made me a better husband, father, and American. My uniform still hangs in my closet, cleaned and pressed. And the core values I learned — Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do – are a road map to a successful life.

America would be a better country if more of us had the experience I was so privileged to have. America would be a better place if we had more veterans.

This Veterans Day, seek out a veteran. Ask them about their time in the service. Ask them about those they served with, and the shared successes, challenges, and suffering they experienced. Listen to them. And thank them. Thank them for their service and sacrifices to protect you – all of us – from those who would seek to destroy everything we hold dear.

Bill Johnson has represented the 6th district of Ohio in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2011. Congressman Johnson entered the United States Air Force in 1973 and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel after 26 years of service.

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