By Mark Oliva
It is a privilege to grow old. That might sound counterintuitive to a culture that celebrates youth and the possibilities of new beginnings. This Veterans Day, though, we take a moment to honor those who know this privilege all too well.
The firearm industry is a unique place in our nation’s connection to our veterans. Many in our ranks are filled by those who served in the military’s ranks. It is an umbilical connection, I suppose. A profession in arms traded for another profession in arms. Our industry is filled with men and women who carried a gun in defense of our nation.
Now, they’re in the business of providing Americans with the means of exercising their God-given right to keep and bear arms. They make the shotguns and the rifles that veterans across America are using to teach their children and grandchildren of their hunting heritage and blessings of freedom. Some among them produce the rifles and handguns our military carries today.
Those veterans continue to serve the military in a life after their time in uniform.
In Our Ranks
The firearm industry, and even here at NSSF, knows we are blessed to work alongside those who served in peace and in war. They’ve stood guard and fought for their lives. They’ve celebrated life, both in the victories and the losses. Some bear scars, even though not all of them are visible.
They’re all forever changed, though. Life has a certain sweetness when an individual has been faced with the reality of how fleeting and precious it can be. We take this day, once a year, to honor them. They’re the ones who have preserved our freedoms for 244 years.
They’ve kept this experiment in democracy alive, standing in the gap, facing sometimes insurmountable odds and knowing they were ready to sacrifice their own lives if necessary. It is a debt our nation can never truly repay. For this one day, though, we pause to honor them.
In firearm production factories and corporate headquarters across the nation, veterans are a fixture. Their hands are literally busy manufacturing the freedoms we value in our nation. Those veterans are a critical asset to our companies, just as they are to our national character.
Their contribution to our Second Amendment rights, our hunting heritage and recreational shooting sports is indelible. Our nation is richer because of them and our industry flourishes because of them.
Everyday Heroes, Every Day
These veterans know the privilege of growing old. They’ve sacrificed. They’ve honored fallen patriots. They carry with them their memories, their legacies and their charge to live a life worthy of their sacrifices.
The firearm industry collectively, and NSSF in particular, takes this day to celebrate that we have such men and women and that we get to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them. A single day might not seem enough. For the veterans among us, though, that handshake, the cold drink, the pat on the back and the simple “thank you” is invaluable.
It is a privilege to have served a nation that values its veterans. It is a privilege to have served alongside fellow veterans, even through some of the most challenging of days. It’s also a privilege to work in an industry that knows – and lives – this each and every day.
Mark Oliva is Director of Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms and ammunition industries. He is a retired Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant with 25 years of service, including tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Albania, and Zaire.