I was born during the Vietnam War. By the time it ended, I was too young to have any awareness of how Americans back home treated returning veterans who survived that terrible conflict.
From what I have learned since then, I know that it was horrible, though. Scorn and condemnation were much too common. People opposed to the war took out their political and philosophical views on those who had just put their lives on the line and endured unspeakable horrors.
There were no ticker-tape parades like those that greeted military personnel after World War II, 30 years earlier.
Throughout my childhood and into my early-adult years, I didn’t really have any sensitivity to the sacrifices that these men and women, and their families, have made in our nation’s history. From the Revolutionary War to the most minor of military battles, it was all lost on me. I knew some of the names, the dates, but it was mostly dry, textbook stuff.
Then, Free Enterprise Days came into my life. An annual event held every fall by World Wide Group (WWDB), the three-day conference celebrates the free enterprise system that is at the heart of the our economic success.
It always starts with a heartfelt ceremony honoring individual veterans from the various branches of the military. With music, video and a narrative about their contributions, these veterans’ stories are shared to an arena packed with Amway Independent Business Owners.
For more than 20 years before it became popular in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, World Wide Group leaders–some with long and impressive careers in the military—have made it a point to recognize and honor our nation’s servicemen and women. It’s an outgrowth of the Amway Corporation’s high regard for freedom, and its recognition that “freedom isn’t free.”
These men and women receive raucous standing ovations, louder and more emotional than any rock concert or other event I have attended.
Those cheers are not intended only for them, of course. They represent so many others, past and present, who have made extraordinary sacrifices for all of us. This includes more than 1.3 million Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice by dying in battle since our nation’s birth.
Whether someone appreciates it or not, we owe a tremendous debt to the millions who have been on the front lines around the world fighting to preserve our country’s freedom and to help spread that freedom elsewhere.
The 2014 WWDB Free Enterprise Days are coming up over a four-week span, each starting on Friday evening and wrapping up on Sunday afternoon. Here are the locations and dates:
Irvine, California (Sept. 26-28); Portland, Oregon (Oct. 3-5); Denver, Colorado (Oct. 10-12); and Edmonton, Alberta (Oct. 17-19).