Veterans Day 2022 takes place less than a week after the Nov. 8 elections. This Tuesday, in the shadow of hyper-partisan politics and electoral brinkmanship, Americans again returned to the ballot box to cast their midterm votes. As the dust continues to settle on the election itself, exit polls tend to indicate that, nationwide, one of voters’ top priorities was the preservation of democracy. In their selections of gubernatorial candidates as well as secretaries of state and federal officials, the electorate chose individuals they believed would uphold the principles of just and fair elections over those who have often made false or misleading accusations of fraud within the system with scarce evidence. Largely (though not entirely), elections deniers lost, and those of all political stripes who support the United States’ democratic process won. Given that election night casts a large shadow into the remaining week and our nation’s future, it stands as a potent reminder on Veterans Day that this is why many of us in the United States chose to serve.
In this all-volunteer service, service members and the families that sacrifice alongside them pledge their loyalty in defending the U.S. constitution and the freedom it provides. We do so focused on our oath and our commitment to the values and principles represented within it. And as our democratic process was threatened, the American voter pushed back by taking advantage of that protected right to vote. While this is an outcome worthy of celebration, the fact that the nation found itself at this inflection point should give all Americans pause. It reflects the fact that democracy must continuously be defended and reminds everyone that our service to our community does not end but instead shifts in its form. This is something veterans have long known and appreciated.
Nonpartisan groups like Vet The Vote came out this year as nonpolitical support, recruiting upwards of 63,000 volunteers – consisting of veterans and military family members – to serve as poll workers during this election. The United States’ electoral system has been challenged by a poll worker shortage brought on by abuse and dangerous attacks from supporters of unfounded conspiracies that past elections were unfair. Given the threats and potential dangers, many longtime volunteers decided the potential of unsafe environments created by these bad actors provided too much danger. In this difficult period, the veteran community stepped in and helped to protect and maintain the integrity of our system.
This is not to say that this one election pulls the United States from harm’s way. It will take continued discourse and debate, and potentially more legislation and legal action, to ensure that the U.S. system remains fair and clear of interference from nefarious actors. It will also take a determined electorate focused on leveraging its rights while ensuring the system remains equitable for all those with the right to participate.
The veteran and military family community will continue to be a stalwart of what it means to serve in and out of uniform. It has a long and honorable history of leading by example when the United States faces existential threats, both foreign and domestic. Watching our fellow Americans come together in rebuke of actions and rhetoric that stand as the antithesis of U.S. values reminds us why our service is so important in the first place. It should give everyone of all demographics and political backgrounds hope that, as we in the United States continue to strive towards perfection while understanding we will forever remain imperfect, we will better ourselves each day. As veterans and military families continue to serve our communities and protect the rights of all, regardless of the form that service might take, we will continue to do the most good and defend the democratic values that allow us to continue striving toward a better world for all.