As Veteran’s Day is now upon us, it’s only fitting that I talk about our veterans and our active military.  But is the respect we are supposed to feel for our veterans on this holiday really meaningful anymore?

Do you remember when letting the flag touch the ground was a sign of disrespect? I can almost hear my eighth grade homeroom teacher now as she emphasized the hours of detention to be endured if that flag touched the ground.

Fast forward eight years, and I see a larger-than-acceptable segment of America that refuses to revere the symbolism of our flag.  In this year alone, national headlines have revealed many cases of flag denigration, from the disgusting “stomp challenge” that swept through our country, to a frat boy urination incident. When did patriotism leave the hearts of our countrymen and women?

The Pledge of Allegiance also used to be revered. Every morning, as soon as the clock hit 8:00 AM, my classmates and I would uniformly stand beside our desk, place our hand over our heart, and say the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag. In the late nineties and early two thousands, that wasn’t an uncommon practice. But on June 26, 2002 that the first federal court ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance violated the First Amendment. Now, the Pledge is a legal minefield, and no teacher can force a child to salute the flag.

Even more unfortunate, however, is the disdain that our government appears to have for our war heroes. While dealing with physical, physiological, and emotional affects of war, soldiers and veterans are forced to face a reality where they are neglected by the same government they swore to protect. It’s no secret that there have been massive issues with the Veterans Administration, from inadequate treatment on the part of the physicians, to waiting for years to process a disability claim.  Our soldiers’ care has taken a back seat, and this is not OK.

Recalling his own battle with PTSD, one soldier laid out how truly debilitating it can be to return from war. I have been fortunate to see many soldiers return home and, by God’s grace, settle back into their home life with little resistance. On the flip side, I have also heard horror stories of soldiers left jobless and homeless, falling deeper and deeper into depression. That depression contributes to high suicide rates among veterans and active duty personnel.

Far too often, military personnel are mistreated, abused, disrespected, and targeted, as if their sacrifice means nothing to the ones for whom they have sacrificed. I have especially seen this among our younger generation, and it’s time this stopped. It’s time for the leaders of this country to put their foot down and fight for a re-establishment of patriotic values. The loyalty of our country’s citizens depends on it.

I challenge every reader today to shake the hand of a man or woman in uniform and personally thank them for their service. Don’t just Instagram or Facebook a picture of the American flag tomorrow morning and not think about it again until next year. Let’s make a conscious effort to thank our servicemen and women daily, for they don’t just walk this life one day out of the year.

To our brave servicemen and women: We thank you for your service and your sacrifice. You are the true heroes, today and everyday. Because of you, we are the home of the free and the land of the brave.