Reporter's Note: President Obama is relatively rare as presidents go, because he is not a military veteran. He is, however, the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, which is the subject of my daily letter to Pennsylvania Avenue.
Tom Foreman | BIO
Dear Mr. President,
A few years ago, when my dad was still living, our whole family had gathered for Thanksgiving and we went to a holiday show. During the middle of it, the announcer said something about honoring our veterans and asked them to stand. So my father and brother rose, along with dozens of others, and we all applauded. I was very proud.
Like you, I never served in the military. I considered it when I was younger and decided it really wasn’t the life for me, despite having grown up in an Air Force family. But my respect for the people who put on uniforms to defend our nation has never wavered, and having spent a lot of time around veterans I understand why we so often consider veterans for our public offices, especially the presidency. I don’t mean that as a slight to you. We’ve had about a dozen presidents with no military service in their background, and a handful more served in only state militias. And by and large I don’t recall any of them allowing the country to be overrun by invading hordes.
Still, I think veterans deserve an extra level of respect every day, because they chose to defend the rest of us; to risk their lives so that we can enjoy ours. It’s as simple as that.
Although there are good and bad people in the military, just as there are good and bad folks standing at any bus stop, I think overall their commitment to serving, to living honorable lives, and to respecting the value of the group over themselves make the odds of finding good souls among them better than it is in the population at large. If I had to pick a team of people I’d never met to accomplish any task, any day, I’d go for veterans hands down.
Veterans’ Day is supposed to be all about us honoring them. But the thing is, every day they honor us with something much greater than any parades, medals, certificates, or monuments. Century in and out, they have kept our freedoms, our security, and our nation whole.
No reasonable person likes war. But we have war because not everyone in the world is reasonable. Thank heavens we also have brave Americans who are willing to engage the terrible, dirty, horrifying, tedious, exhausting, and risky work of standing up to those who would create a much different world than the one we enjoy.
Don’t call me today. Give some unknown, unsuspecting vet a call and say thanks. I think that’s what we all ought to do.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with