There’s a recent movie out called “Thank you for your service,” that’s getting a little attention in the press. It’s thanking veterans for their service to this country. And that’s something we do every year on Veterans Day and Memorial Day. But it took a speaker from China, and reactions from my 10-year-old son, to help me see how every veteran, especially the Cold Warriors, gave life to my youngest child, and gave me another reason to be thankful.
Most of the veterans who are recognized are honored for their courage under fire. Certainly others did their duty with pride and no less bravery, especially during stressful training, guarding, and war-gaming, but may never have heard an enemy shot. I’m writing to say your military service matters.
Those of us who lived during the Cold War know its importance. But it’s a different story for younger generations. Some revisionists would have you believe that it was no big deal. It was over-hyped. It was just a waste of time, a lot like the Y2K phenomenon (where people thought our computers would be messed up by the year 2000). They want you to think it was unnecessary. But that’s just not true.
The week of Veterans Day, I had a speaker come to LaGrange. Lily Tang Williams from the Victims of Communism Fund arrived to tell us her tale about being born in China, and being raised as a “Young Pioneer” during the bloody Cultural Revolution, when students turned in their professors, and each other, for being insufficiently hard-core communist. Even family members turned on each other. Victims could be executed, or sent away to brutal labor camps to be worked to death in inhospitable conditions.
Eventually, Ms. Williams was able to come to the United States, and stay, giving up her law professor position. She married an American, became involved in real estate, and eventually became a U.S. Senate candidate for the Libertarian Party in 2016 in Colorado. She was even included in a debate with the incumbent senator and his GOP rival, stealing the show by calling for body-cams for politicians!
In addition to speaking to college students, she also gave a presentation to our Cub Scout Den. After telling the kids her story, we asked the Scouts what freedoms they now do appreciate. One mentioned freedom of speech, while another chose the right to vote. One mentioned freedom of travel. My son, normally a chatterbox compared to his older sister, stayed strangely quiet.
After we dropped our speaker off at her hotel, my son asked me, “Is it true that China had a one-child policy?” I told our second-born that it was so, providing an academic discussion that focused on the rationale of limited resources and overpopulation, not getting it.
He stared at me with wide eyes, in shock, and replied “But dad, if that happened here, you wouldn’t have had me.”
It then hit me, harder than ever, what freedom truly means, and that means to have a family that you want, which is more important than we think about on a day-to-day basis. But my young son got it right off the bat.
So, on behalf of my son and myself, our family thanks you for supporting freedom, and opposing tyranny, in all forms.
John A. Tures is associate professor of political science at LaGrange College; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @JohnTures2.