Finding hope in the hard unfinished work of building and revitalizing our democracy
© Greg Nash

Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor the men and women who bravely gave their lives in defense of American democracy. As we reflect on their sacrifice this Memorial Day, we should be asking ourselves how we can properly honor them during a time when there is so much division in our country, and when the foundations of our democracy are often under attack?

Today, less than one percent of Americans serve in the military. Most Americans don’t have a connection to someone killed in action, or to the military community more broadly. Memorial Day is a chance for all Americans to reflect on the generations of Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice. It’s also a chance to reflect on why they made that sacrifice.

To us, it is the promise of America. The Founding Fathers set the task for us when they wrote in the Constitution that, “we the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union… do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” In the two hundred and plus years since, we’ve endeavored to form a more perfect union in starts and stops. From the evils of slavery, Reconstruction, segregation and Jim Crow, to the Civil Rights movement, and our ongoing fight for racial, climate, and economic justice, the story of America has been one of struggle to achieve our higher ideals.

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So after a long overdue and ongoing reckoning with racial violence, more than 500,000 American lives lost to a once-in-a-century pandemic, and a deadly insurrection on our Capitol, has the distance between the American dream and our American reality become a chasm simply too wide to cross?

In a word, no. In Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, he correctly noted that it is the livings’ job to dedicate themselves to “the unfinished work'' that the dead fought to “nobly advance.”

There are different paths to get us there, of course. For us, we’re proud to lead a movement of military veterans who, across the country and across party lines, are answering the call of duty and finding inspiration in the subtleties of the American experiment. From city halls to the halls of Congress, women and men are seeking to represent their communities with a commitment to servant leadership — leadership that is selfless, values-driven and above all, courageous. The kind of leadership that puts the interest of people over politics, and service before self. And the well from which we draw both our strength and hope, is found in our shared American story.

As we gather with friends and family this Memorial Day, we urge every American to think of the sacrifice on which this country was built. Let us always remember that we’re united — not by class, creed, or ideology, but by our shared values, our shared history, and our love of a country that is not perfect, but is striving to be. Let us find hope in the hard and inexorably unfinished work of building and revitalizing a democracy that may one day be worthy of every life given in its name.

Jason CrowJason CrowPelosi floats Democrat-led investigation of Jan. 6 as commission alternative Finding hope in the hard unfinished work of building and revitalizing our democracy Colorado Democrat: Fear of Trump, desire for power 'overriding' patriotism in some Republicans MORE is a U.S. Army veteran and two-term congressman representing Colorado’s 6 th District. Emily Cherniack is the founder and executive director of New Politics, a bipartisan organization that recruits and elects military veterans and national service alumni at every level of government.