The website for the social welfare organization – American Hometown Veteran Assistance –reads, “Freedom isn’t free; our VETERANS have paid dearly for it!” For many, including myself, that price has been pretty high and has taken many forms. Yet, I wish I was still active duty everyday, and given the chance, I wouldn’t trade that experience for all the gold in the world.
I am not sure where I would be or what I would be doing today had I not decided to enlist after September 11, 2001. While we learn much about how to better ourselves serving in the military, returning home can often be a difficult task. I, for instance, ran a successful business as a younger 21-year-old man, which I was not able to return to after my honorable discharge. I received injuries that took quite a bit of time to heal from, but also my absence sacrificed the strength of the company.
In the end, I decided to return to school, which is how and when I met Chuck Wilder, who is President of American Hometown Veteran Assistance, Inc. It was the Christmas season and I was a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of Florida. Times were tough, very tough. My wife and I were busting our humps, barreling along with my graduation being our light at the end of our very long and dark tunnel.
Christmas, particularly for veterans and those with hardship, can be an especially depressing time of year. While we hear seasoned slogans, such as “good will toward men,” too few acts of good will are practiced, in reality. Veterans are not exactly prone to ask for help, and I was no different. In my mind, I just figured if I kept working hard and advancing toward my goal, then all would eventually come together. Then, because he knew I would never ask myself, John Gebhardt – a man of many roles all aimed at assisting veterans going back to school – placed a call to Chuck at American Hometown Veteran Assistance.
Our Christmas was a modest one, and no doubt, will forever be one of the most special my family and I will ever spend together. Naturally, we did not have cable, so we watched the same 5 or so Christmas movies that we had on DVD, which were played on a dilapidated Wal-Mart special DVD player. Those movies are now tradition for my family, but that Christmas had an even longer-lasting impact.
Eventually, we did reach the light at the end of our very long and dark tunnel, and beyond. I had feverishly studied social welfare programs that are driving our debt, many different aspects to poverty in American history, human relationships and each political philosophy’s presuppositions toward them. My entire time in academia was spent studying politics, history, and the like, but I rediscovered the long-forgotten concept of virtue, thought by our Founding Fathers to be of utmost importance to freedom.
I was always a conservative, but it dawned on me that government grows mostly in the name of fulfilling the basics in our hierarchy of needs, or physiological and safety needs, such as food, water, security, shelter and even employment. All of these needs, save for certain security needs, could be done more efficiently through our own communities if we could only sustain a sufficient amount of that which our Founding Fathers priced so high – virtue.Hierarchy of Needs: Physiological and Safety needs are referred to as “basic” needs, while all above are referred to as “growth” needs, as they lead to personal growth for both individuals and society as a whole.
I could make a dozen arguments for the need to buildup private civil society organizations, all based on the need to preserve our freedom or reduce dependency and the evils of idleness. But there remains another that is wholly absent from the social welfare debate, altogether. The real world result and most frightening promise of big government is that it destroys the human connection. Healthy human relationships are essential to any strong society, including relationships between citizens, the relationship they have with our Creator, and even themselves.
As anyone who has experienced financial hardship can attest, one can quickly find oneself drifting to and on the fringes of society, disconnected from community, morality, and a sense of obligation to anyone – even self. The problem with government’s ability to bring those citizens back into the fold, is that they perpetually fulfill only our most basic needs, with no incentive to move up the hierarchy toward personal growth and obligation to community.
Ultimately, what intimate community-based organizations like American Hometown Veterans Assistance did for me and many other veterans, was bring us back from the fringe of society. However, and most importantly, they do so by instilling or preserving that sense of obligation, not by relieving citizens of their obligations. Unlike the perpetual, no-accountability assistance programs, which only give to those deemed worthy and by means strictly created by bureaucracy, American Hometown Veterans does not enable or limit assistance to only those most basic and primal human needs. As it relates to community and a healthy society, the need to love and be loved, or to belong to something greater is just as important as food, shelter and healthcare.
Only intimate, community-based organizations can provide both basic needs and needs of growth in a manner that is healthy to the individual and, as an extension, the whole of society. Quoting from OVR, for individuals:
How we choose to fulfill the need to love and be loved, or to belong, can mean all of the difference between being in a healthy, or unhealthy relationship; the difference between drug addiction, or sobriety; the consumption of food for sustenance, or in excess to obesity; the difference between frugality, or debt prone spending habits, and so on.
And on a community or society, how we choose to fulfill our citizens’ basic and growth needs:
…can mean all of the difference between healthy and unhealthy collective behavior; political success or failure; collective happiness or misery; and, ultimately, freedom or tyranny.
If we fulfill these needs using as a vehicle centralized government, then we destroy these obligations and the human desire to meet growth needs, which results in the selfish pursuit only of basic needs i.e., perpetual welfare programs. If, however, we have virtue enough to meet these needs ourselves, we strengthen human relationships and the obligation we all feel toward each other, and the result is a world in which the Sixteenth Amendment is both “unnecessary and improper,” rather than “necessary and proper” to care for the general welfare. That is part of my logic in the argument that I make against Mr. Mark Levin in Why Mark Levin’s Liberty Amendments Will Not Save America.
It may seem like a rather daunting task, but the model given to us by American Hometown Veteran Assistance – which you can learn more about by clicking here – can pay big dividends to society as a whole and liberty, itself. Recently, I was honored to be asked to give a speech during the last fundraiser banquet, in which I tried to impress upon the donors just how vital their work truly is to society and the cause of freedom. Of course, I couldn’t speak directly to politics, but I did speak to the human connection, and shared with them my own sense of obligation that intensified from their acts of kindness. Now, I devote much of my own time to ease the suffering of our citizens, which I shared with them hoping to underscore that we can replace the conversation surrounding the cycle of poverty with one that speaks to the cycle of virtue, obligation and human relationships.
Benjamin Franklin, speaking on England’s government-based social welfare system, said “I have always been of the opinion that legal provision for the poor [in England] is a very great evil, operating as it does to the encouragement of idleness…and, begin now to see our error, and, I hope, shall reform it.” Yet, in America, our faith and love of community were always the sources of virtue, because as Franklin also stated, for our Creator “the most acceptable service we render to Him is in doing good to his other children.” We care for and about the needs of our citizens simply because our faith tells us, “I cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good I can do.”
As we, conservatives, advocate social welfare reform, let us speak words in the spirit of Franklin and organizations like American Hometown Veteran Assistance, Inc. Let us not forget that our nation’s credit rating is not all that is at stake, but the far more important issue of human relationships. It’s true, “Freedom isn’t free;” but tyranny will cost us our very humanity.Disclaimer: American Hometown Veteran Asst. Inc., is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt Public Charity founded in February, 2007. As such, they did not participate in this article in any fashion, nor have they claimed to share the same political views as the author of this article. So, don’t even think about it Barack Obama!