As Veterans Day approaches, I find myself reflecting on my service as a Marine and a military spouse. This year as my husband, a special forces soldier, returns home from deployment, I am reminded of the responsibility our leaders hold in dispatching our military to do the nation’s bidding. On Nov. 11, it is critical that we all remember the toll that carrying out our foreign policy takes on our service members, and the magnitude of the burden they shoulder for all of us at home.

After Josh’s 16 years of active service, there have been too many homecomings to count. When Josh walks through the door for the first time, the joy our family feels is overwhelming. After the hugs and tears, the kids want him to examine every gap where a tooth used to be, every drawing, every new thing they’ve learned at school since he left.

But it takes months for him to leave the battlefield. The mission he’s left behind stays with him. He feels guilty for coming home, for leaving his partner forces to fight without him — and he thinks of the ghosts of those who will never go home again: What right do I have to enjoy my family and home when my fallen friends will never see theirs again?

Most of us who join the military do so because we believe deeply in American values: the defense of liberty, justice and democracy; the protection of the oppressed. We believe so deeply in these ideals that we have faith they are worth sacrificing everything for: birthdays, holidays, the births of children and, if necessary, our lives.

As we reflect on the sacrifices of our military this Veteran’s Day, we should commit to electing and supporting leaders who exhibit the same values we expect of and assign to our service members. In Washington, I see far too much focus on partisan politics and personal gain. We owe it to those who have served our country, and to all Americans, to do better and to uphold the values that Josh and I have sworn to protect.

Claire Russo

Albemarle County

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