Want to Thank Veterans For Their Service? Vote Today

Want to Thank Veterans For Their Service? Vote Today

It's a frequent scene in airports: A civilian spots a soldier in fatigues and asks, “Where are you headed, soldier?”

“Back home on leave.”

“Well, I hope you know we all appreciate you and what you do for our country.”

This is a wonderful refrain, but it's not enough to adequately convey our appreciation. Deeds matter more than words, and those of us who aren't currently in the fight can tangibly convey our appreciation by exercising one of the very freedoms troops are fighting to protect - the right to vote.

Your commitment to vote and encourage others to do the same is just one measure of patriotism and a way to honor this process as a backbone of democracy. A failure to vote surrenders local and national outcomes to the actions of others, and the current level of national participation is not good.

In the 2014 midterm elections, about 64 percent of eligible Americans did not vote. Presidential election years tend to fare better, but still, a disappointing 40 percent of Americans did not vote in 2016.

To better understand the lack of voter participation and assess potential barriers to voting, MOAA hworked with Syracuse University, through a grant from the Democracy Fund, to survey servicemembers and veterans to identify their perceptions of the absentee voting process.

This major report is helping develop initiatives to increase voter participation in all corners. Join me in thanking the MOAA Military Family Initiative and Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families for leading this.

Our archetypal soldier represents all those who have served in harm's way throughout the years. Consider the liberation of concentration camps at the end of World War II. Photos show weary prisoners beaming upon the arrival of the Americans and allies (above right). They once again had their freedom, thanks in part to U.S. servicemembers.

Another image is more current: An Iraqi woman in an abaya makes a peace sign, one of her fingers stained purple. In 2005, she endured threats to her life - as did many others - to vote in Iraq's first open election in over 50 years. And U.S. servicemembers had a hand in bringing about this cherished liberty.

We must never take our freedom and ability to vote for granted. Thank you for sharing this sentiment widely - and please encourage those you know to vote.