On Citizen-Soldiers

As yesterday marked the 238th anniversary of the United States Army, it is worthy of remembering that it stands strongly today as a force of volunteers. They are citizens who stand in readiness to defend us and our liberties, uphold America’s sense of obligation to others, and fight for real peace. They, more than anyone else, yearn for lasting peace but they also know it requires the will to wage war on evil. The example is one of duty, not privilege; service, not benefits. This force of Americans demonstrates that liberty requires more than merely the enjoyment of one’s freedoms but the giving of self to retain and perpetuate the high estate of being American. Coolidge would explain our voluntary example of citizenship this way in a letter written in July 1924,

“Our country has always relied chiefly for its defence upon the readiness of its patriotic manhood to take up arms when necessity presented. After the great military effort of the United States in the World War, our army was demobilized more rapidly and completely than that of any other warring nation.” As Coolidge said earlier that same year, however, “The ways of our people are the ways of peace. They naturally seek ways to make peace more secure.”

He understood that our military exemplifies to the world a character diametrically opposite to world powers of the past. America’s volunteer army demonstrates that peace comes not through policies of conquest and occupation, such traits do not define the citizen-soldier. Peace is attained, not at any price, but by summoning both the will to sacrifice for it in battle and the discipline to live it when the fight is done. America’s citizen-soldiers, in striving for peace while willing to wage war, have demonstrated this “impossible” ideal to the world for almost two-hundred and forty years. For that they deserve our gratitude and enduring respect.

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