By Josiah Hokanson
Special for the Courier-Herald
Imagine a mom and dad who scraped by for 18 years to save for their son’s college tuition? They sacrificed financially by driving older cars, taking cheap vacations and not wearing the latest trendy jeans. When their son finally graduated from high school and they presented him with the tuition money, he instead buys a 2010 Ford Mustang with leather seats. Did he honor their sacrifice?
Veterans sacrifice a lot more than that when they swear an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America. Veterans sacrifice their own freedom while serving in uniform under military law, unable to choose where to live or their working conditions. Veterans sacrifice time away from family when going off to training or war. Veterans sacrifice by not being there while their second-grade son sits every day wondering if his dad will make it back from Iraq. Some veterans sacrifice their life. So how can we honor veteran’s sacrifices and not trade that in for a stupid car that will rust and wither away?
If we thank them by shaking their hand and saying, “Thank you for your service” when we see them in a store parking lot, is that enough? If we donate a small amount of money to support veteran’s organizations, is that enough? While it is a start, it isn’t enough to honor them truly. The best way to honor someone who gives you a valuable gift, in my mind, is by using the gift for its intended purpose. A veteran’s greatest gift is to protect and defend our rights written into the Constitution. I believe the two greatest duties and privileges the Constitution gives us are the right to vote, and the right to a trial by jury.
Did you know that less than half of eligible voters in Washington state voted in the last presidential election? Did you know that when my dad was deployed as a National Guardsman, that over 90 percent of eligible voters in Iraq voted in their national election? Do you think that everyone who thanks veterans for their service or who donates money to veteran’s causes actually vote? Do they take the time to get knowledgeable about the candidates and issues? Even though I don’t get to vote yet, I can tell that if Washington really cared about honoring their veteran’s sacrifices, our voting percentages wouldn’t be out performed by middle eastern countries where our veterans our still serving.
Our right to a trial by jury only works if we have jurors willing to serve. We do have veterans that are willing to swear an oath and serve their country. Why is it, then, that in Pierce County in 2012, only 15-20 percent of citizens summoned for jury actually report for duty? Even after a decade of war overseas, most of our citizens are skipping out on a duty that is essential to one of our Constitutional rights that veterans have sacrificed to provide for us. I just don’t get it. My dad can leave my family and me to fight in a foreign country for over a year and many of us can’t even take a couple weeks to do jury duty? Really?
In my mind, we can best honor veteran’s sacrifices by using the gifts the veterans signed up to protect, our constitutional rights. As sad as it would be to spend our college money on a car that will be worthless in a few years, it would be even more dishonorable to not use the rights and fulfill our duties that the veterans have given us.
Josiah Hokanson, 13, is in the eighth grade at North Tapps Middle School.