Men and women join the military for lots of different reasons. Some do it to help pay for future college educations, some to get away from home, some to see the world, and some to find some discipline in their lives. But no matter the reasons, the ultimate end of military service, which is to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic,” sometimes calls on those in uniform to make great sacrifices, even sometimes one’s life.
So many have made these sacrifices over our country’s history, and most did so with honor, integrity, and great courage. Over the last several decades, all military service has been voluntary. The military draft ended on July 1, 1973. For the last 20 years, in this post 9/11 era, those who have volunteered to serve—less than 1% of our population—have known that the possibility of going into combat was real and immediate.
Still, they have volunteered and served, and those who have gone to war, sometimes on several different deployments, have experienced what all combat veterans know and bear—the physical, the psychological, as well as the soul kind of wounds that are part of combat experiences. And they all come home to little fanfare. Most go on to live long, productive lives after their service.
There is an old saying about life: “It was never promised to be a rose garden.” We all suffer in a variety of ways, but some suffer more than most and often alone. This video is about a veteran and about those among us who jump in to help when they see another’s suffering and practice the most powerful of human virtues, compassion.
This story is about an old veteran who has worked hard all of his life. In his old age, he had saved enough to buy an old house with enough left over to make a start at remodeling it. He hired a contractor to do the work, but he turned out to be a dishonest person who fleeced the old man out of his last bit of money without doing any of the work. The veteran was left to live a meager life in what was essentially a shell of a house.
The rest of the story is about some young people and the generosity and compassion of an entire town that came together to enter into this old veteran’s suffering and to make a different end to the story. Really, dear reader, this is the kind of story that reveals the greatness of our humanity. Political power, the wealth of the economy, and our status among nations are not what make us great. Rather, we are great because of this kind of love and action displayed in this story that is the greatness we are all capable of and that we are called to achieve in our short lives.
Listen to the comments made by those who helped this old veteran when he is shown his new house. You will hear comments like, “Welcome home,” and “Thank you for your service and what you did for us.” This story is about the selflessness, on both counts—that of the service given by the old veteran in his day and that of the service given to him in the spirit of gratitude and compassion by the young people and others who took on this effort out of brotherly love for him when he was hurting. In its own way, this is a modern parable of the Good Samaritan.
Yes, the suffering that this old veteran experienced was unjust, a consequence of human venality, but it was responded to with the better angels of our humanity. This is a story to lift our eyes to the real path to happiness and “greatness,” a path that has real meaning.
Enjoy this video. It says much more about our shared human nature than we usually hear and think about.