Veterans Day this year was a particularly tough one for me. Already within the first few weeks of 2019, I had lost two of my longtime friends, both Marine combat veterans of the Vietnam War. Then just last month, I received word that two more close friends, also veterans, had died … within one day of each other.

It was like being kicked in the gut. These individuals were not just my friends, they were prime examples of what it means to serve. None of them were drafted. They volunteered — something that was unusual during those troubled times.

Even after their service, they continued to live their lives with honor, humility and quiet grace. They never bragged or boasted. On the contrary, they seldom discussed their service. When they did, it was with a profound sense of humility. But you just knew they were the kind of solid human beings you could always count on.

Freedom Isn’t Free

Those of us who carry firearms for personal protection know better than most how fragile freedom can be. Almost weekly, we face yet another campaign to restrict where we can carry. Absurd administrative red-tape keeps piling up, and some states even attempt to ban this or that “evil” gun (or magazine).

Most veterans, especially those with combat experience, tend to be strong supporters of the Second Amendment in general and the right to carry in particular. After all, these men and women know only too well what it’s like to be under attack and the importance of being able to defend themselves.

But their appreciation of the need for self-defense did not end when they came home. Here in Florida, I often have young men and women veterans in my carry classes. Ironically, they frequently mention how they felt safer in the Middle East than they do in Miami or when visiting relatives in cities like Baltimore and Detroit!

It’s even worse for veterans who need to travel to anti-gun states like New York and New Jersey. They tell me it’s almost insulting that after risking their lives for their country and despite being qualified on multiple military heavy weapons, they cannot even legally carry a handgun without violating some state law or municipal statute.

Sometimes We Forget How Good We Have It

It’s important that all of us as Americans remember how unique our rights are compared to the rest of the world. This was underscored for me when I was at the SHOT Show a couple of years back. While wandering the exhibits, I met some British law enforcement personnel.

I recall one conversation I had with a British cop, a member of a strategic response team (their version of our SWAT teams). He explained that, despite carrying a full-auto submachine gun on duty, he had to lock up his service pistol at the end of each shift!

We discussed how, as an American private citizen, I was able to carry a gun pretty much anywhere, anytime. He said he envied us and that it was absurd that he had fewer rights than an ordinary American civilian.

Few nations have the freedoms that we take for granted. It pays to periodically remind ourselves of the debt we owe to our military vets and remember that the best way to honor them is by being the kind of people worthy of their sacrifice.

About John Caile

NRA Certified Instructor John Caile has more than 35 years of experience in the firearms industry, including training others in concealed carry and practical handgun shooting skills. As the communications director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee, he was instrumental in passing Minnesota’s landmark concealed carry permit law. John has appeared on national talk radio and network and public television and is a contributing writer for Concealed Carry Magazine. He continues his lifelong activism for gun owners and their rights in Palm Coast, Florida.