The United States of America is arguably the greatest country in the history of the world because in times of crisis, whether it be economic, fiscal, or military, ordinary citizens have risked their futures with the hope that they could make our country better off for the next generation.
I was reminded of this when, not too long ago, I visited Independence Hall in Philadelphia for the first time in my life. When I walked into the room and saw the chairs and desks that Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and others used to create our founding documents, it had a powerful impact on me.
When I was a student learning about our nation’s birth, I often thought of our founders as superheroes. But literally seeing the chairs they sat in and the small room used to debate and adopt the Declaration of Independence made me realize they were just ordinary people who did something exceptional. Our founders were normal people who risked everything to standup to an oppressive government with the hope that they could make America a better place for their children and grandchildren.
Since that time, military service members have selflessly served to protect the freedoms our founders risked their lives for when they read the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 at Independence Square. Both military service members and veterans are in large part responsible for the preservation of our society as we know it today.
Because of this, I proclaimed 2012 the Year of the Veteran, with the hope we could help those returning home reintegrate into civilian society with housing, education, health care, and meaningful jobs.
The best part of my job is welcoming home those who have served overseas. The hardest days are when I have to attend military funerals. However hard it is, talking with the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, always gives me hope. At nearly every military funeral I attended, a family member or friend of the fallen soldier has come up to me and thanked the people of our great state for honoring those returning home. It’s remarkable that those who are experiencing an unbelievable amount of grief from the loss of a son or daughter, husband or wife, or friend, can take the time to thank the people of our state. They are what make our state and country great.
While we will certainly face difficult challenges in the future, it is important to remember the extraordinary courage exhibited by ordinary people throughout our nation’s history. Today I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the courage exhibited by our founders, our service members, and our veterans. If you see a veteran or service member at a parade, community event or gathering, please thank them for their service and for protecting our freedoms.
Scott Walker is governor of Wisconsin.