On Portraits of Courage

Portraits of Courage is a book of paintings done by George W. Bush. The paintings are of military veterans who have served since 9/11. The former president has come to know these veterans personally once he left office.

This is one of those times you have to forget about politics. All of his profits as the author will benefit the George W. Bush Military Institute, which means the money is going to veterans.

George W. Bush largely stayed silent during the years of his successor, but his first real foray into the public eye in nearly a decade is for a great cause. I can’t speak on the quality of the paintings in the book because I haven’t seen them, but I can speak on the quality of the stories alongside them. I’ll say it until I’m no longer able to, our military veterans represent the best we have to offer as a country. I fully understand that you may already have organizations you support, but this could be something you get behind.

Are you interested in Portraits of Courage?

This Memorial Day

This Memorial Day and every one in the future will mean more to me than ever before. Now I’ve visited the monuments and memorials erected in honor of the men and women who have died defending the interests and freedoms of our country and our allies.

I’ve been very clear in my constant support of our military, and only now has that support intesified after my trip to Washington DC last week. You may not know a veteran or anyone who’s died serving in our military, but none of the men and women who died knew you. And they were willing to give their life, in part, to protect you and your way of life.

Every fallen soldier deserves the gratitude of every American.

I actually won’t say Happy Memorial Day. Because I’m not happy that so many of our young men and women have had to die to protect our country. But I will say today is Memorial Day, and we should all take time to remember what today is really about. It isn’t about being off from work, it isn’t about BBQ on the porch, or about taking a short trip for the long weekend. Today is about the fallen heroes of our military.

Also, I’ll have my DC video up tomorrow.

On this Veterans Day:

On this Veterans Day there’s much you can do. Some cities have parades and big celebrations and others don’t. But that doesn’t matter. Honoring and supporting our veterans should be an everyday thing.

They’re sent all over the world to fight for people who can’t fight for themselves. And they’re sent to fight against terrorist organizations that have no concept of right and wrong. They’re sent thousands of miles from home. They leave their friends and families. They protect this great country of ours at exceptional cost and sacrifice.

But living in the United States can make it easy to take these heroes for granted. We don’t have to worry about if our home is going to be bombed. We don’t see the consequences of war in our backyard. There may come a day in which we come under attack from a foreign power or terror group, and guess who will be right there on the front lines to protect our homeland? The men and women of our military.

It’s easy to criticize the use of our military in foreign affairs, but that criticism should not fall on the shoulders of the soldiers who are out to do good.

So maybe today you can visit with some local veterans. Or watch your local parade on TV. Or even pull out your credit card and make a donation to a veterans group. There are many things you can do today, but don’t forget there are many things you can do everyday.

If you’re reading this and you’ve served for the United States, know that there are millions of people who recognize and appreciate your sacrifice. I thank you for all you’ve done. It’s more than I’ll probably do in my lifetime.

Saturday Selects #17: Independence Day

Saturday Selects is a series of posts I write on the first Saturday of each month to discuss something outside the general bookish theme of the blog. Today’s topic is out nation’s birthday. Well, my nation anyway.

Today is July 4, which of course is the independence day of the United States. Besides all the fireworks displays that happen all around the country, I really feel like this day is taken for granted by Americans more than just about any other.

Imagine a world in which war had begun. And leaders from the colonies have to sneak away to draft the Declaration of Independence, knowing that if the war is ultimately lost they will all be convicted of treason. The revolution ended in 1783 and the Declaration was adopted in 1776. So you see there was no way of knowing the colonies would ultimately come out victorious.

So I ask that you put yourself in the shoes of a colonist during the revolution. What would you do if war broke out in the only place you’d ever called home? Would you pledge allegiance to a country you’d never even visited? Or would you fight for your freedom? I can’t answer that question as it’s written. Because I don’t know. But I can tell you that if war broke out on US soil today, I’d enlist. And it wouldn’t be a tough decision. Not because I’d want to be some hero or patriot or bloodthirsty soldier, but because this is my country. This is home.

Which probably leads you to wonder at how come I don’t enlist in the military now. Especially since y’all know a little about my job hunt. Well, I don’t have an answer to that. But I respect every person serving in our military more than I can say. Those men and women are more brave and courageous than I’ll ever be.

But let me get back on topic here. What I want to say is that it took years of sacrifice from men and women during the years of the revolution to help get us to this point of fireworks, music, food, and fun every fourth of July. All I ask is that you not forget what this day really means in the history of this great country of ours.

What’s Veterans Day Mean to you?

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I wasn’t planning on writing this today. Partly because it has nothing to do with books and also because I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to say. But I don’t think there is a wrong answer to my question. Also, I think Veterans Day is known as Remembrance Day in other parts of the world? I think. Just so you know what I’m talking about. And I think it’s celebrated on November 11 in most places to coincide with the end of World War I.

Let me see if I can answer this without thinking too much about it and giving some calculated response. To me, Veterans Day reminds me that during the 365 days a year I spend going through my day-to-day routine, whatever it may be, there are American soldiers deployed somewhere else in the world. Some are in combat zones and others aren’t, but so many are away from their families and friends. And that these soldiers are tasked with a job that I could never do. They are protecting the freedom and interests of the United States. And every one of us should be grateful for every one of them. That’s what Veterans Day means to me.

See, I don’t have any close friends or family members currently in the military. I think one of my grandpas served during World War II? But I’m not sure. All I know is that military personnel were present at his funeral and someone was presented with an American flag. But that doesn’t diminish the meaning of this day to me. My university was extremely military friendly and I had classes with veterans every single semester. I never asked about their service and I didn’t become close friends with any of them. But those classes taught me something I hadn’t realized before then, they’re just regular people like you and me. I guess I used to have this thought that anyone in the Army or in the Marines had to have a certain look about them that gave off some aura that told you not to mess with them, but no. It put a face to our military. At least it did for me.

There are always going to be some really bad things going on in the world, and the United States military will always be there. At the ready. For whatever arises. To serve the country and protect all of us. They don’t care who we voted for or if we’re White or Black or rich or poor, we’re Americans and that’s all that matters.

So if you’re reading this and you’re a United States veteran, I thank you for your service and also for your sacrifice. I know you won’t agree, but you ARE a hero. And I’m not the only one who believes so.

ESPN did a great video a little while back on veterans returning home. It’s got a sports theme to it, but these are real families and it shows how the entire families of these men and women are affected by their service. Just look at their reactions. Here’s the video. I’ve watched it maybe a dozen times and I cry every single time.

If you know any veterans, then thank them. Today and every day that you can. And don’t forget about the countless others who never made it home.

I wrote this poem a couple days ago for today.

What’s Veterans Day mean to you?