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State Sen. John Cronin (D-Lunenburg), an Army veteran, speaks at the City of Fitchburg Veteran’s Day Ceremony on Thursday morning. (Sentinel & Enterprise/Jacob Vitali)
State Sen. John Cronin (D-Lunenburg), an Army veteran, speaks at the City of Fitchburg Veteran’s Day Ceremony on Thursday morning. (Sentinel & Enterprise/Jacob Vitali)

Since leaving the Army nearly five years ago, Veterans Day has become more special to me each year. I have come to appreciate the time of its observance on the calendar, especially every other year when Veterans Day falls closely behind yet another divisive national election. If you read the newspaper, listen to talk radio, or watch cable news, it is no secret that our country is sharply divided along partisan lines in a manner that cannot long endure. As President Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

To me, Veterans Day is a salient opportunity for all of us to be reminded that there is more — much more — that binds us together as Americans than divides us. Just look to our veterans.

There is a special distinction that makes America’s military and its servicemembers unique among the world’s nations: their oath. Our servicemembers and our veterans did not swear allegiance to a president, to a political party, to a general or to a king and queen. Every member of the U.S. military swears an oath of allegiance to support and defend the Constitution, and the values of self-determination, liberty, freedom, and the rule of law enshrined in that sacred document.

One of the greatest gifts you receive during military service is that shared oath and the collective commitment with your comrades to something larger than yourself. The most gratifying part of my own service in the Army was being a part of the most diverse, cohesive team in the world. I served with people from every state — of every race, gender, background, religion, creed, and political view imaginable. We served together, we fought together, and we always put our mission and our oath first.

From that shared experience, veterans understand intrinsically that there is more that binds us Americans together than divides us. As veterans, we have a duty to not let the rest of our nation forget it. Consider what our veterans have sacrificed and given up to honor their oath and serve our country: their youth, their physical and mental health, time with their families, and even their lives.

On Veterans Day, all Americans can reflect on that sacrifice and our common bonds as Americans, and recommit to working together to meet head-on the intractable powers and politics of division that threaten our future.

State Sen. John Cronin is a West Point graduate, combat veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and incumbent state senator for the Worcester and Middlesex District.

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