A Founding Father’s Advice on a Day of Independence

Posted July 5, 2012

A Founding Father’s Advice on a Day of Independence
-Chris Marvin, Managing Director of Got Your 6

“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
-George Washington

 

Our nation may never see a greater leader than George Washington.

On July 4th, 1776, General Washington had already been in command of the Continental Army for a year. While Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin were signing the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Washington was moving his Army from a recently re-taken Boston to New York, where the largest battle of the revolution would begin in about a month.

In victory and in defeat, Washington ensured that the welfare of his soldiers was one of his top priorities.  From Boston to Trenton and Valley Forge to Yorktown, Washington ensured that his Army—disparate and battle weary as they were—was prepared for the next engagement.  He was a brilliant tactician that took into consideration more than just the victory at hand, but also those individuals who sacrifice for it.

Even British newspapers were complimentary of Washington’s command and character during the revolution.   And after he resigned his role leading the Continental Army, Washington continued to find ways to serve the country.  And he saw that there was a calling for those with whom he served to continue to engage the nation, as well.

When Washington talks of how “the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated”, he isn’t talking about a pat on the back.  Rather, the path of his life demonstrates that military service prepares individuals for leadership roles in civic life.  Veterans should be perceived as leaders and civic assets.  They should be appreciated for the qualities that they possess, and they should be treated not as a group owed a debt by society, rather as a group that is still willing to give back.

Over our Independence Day, as we took time to appreciate those who have followed in Washington’s footsteps and served our country in the recent past, it is crucial that we heed Washington’s advice.

If we perceive veterans as leaders and civic assets, then we will incentivize young people to also follow Washington’s path and join the military.  We will have a stronger military for it.  And we will have stronger communities for the veterans who return home with the expectation they will serve and reinvigorate.