A new video from military and veterans apparel company Ranger Up sends exactly the message we need in time for Veterans Day.
The short clip starts with quick cuts of two men going about their daily routine: One does yoga in his living room, the other lifts weights at a gym.
From the outset, the differences between them are apparent: One man sports long hair, has a cat, attends a protest with a picket sign that says "guns really do kill people," and drives a fuel-efficient car with a "Proud Democrat" bumper sticker. The other is bald, likes dogs, cleans his pistol at home, and drives a pickup truck with a "Trump 2020" sticker plastered on the back.
They enter a diner, one at a time, see each other, embrace, and sit down at a table together. Then the camera zooms in on their matching 101st Airborne tattoos. The message is simple, but it's one that's been too easily drowned out in recent years: That despite our differences — whether they be our choice in pets, lifestyle, or more likely, our political views — they don't need to divide us.
For veterans, the video is a reminder that we share a bond through our military service, and where others may see only barriers, for us that shared experience is a bridge.
"This is the most contentious political climate of my lifetime," Nick Palmisciano, the CEO and Founder of Ranger Up, and a former Army infantry officer said of the decision to create the video, titled Lead the Way.
"And while there is nothing wrong with passionate differences in desired policy, we've got powerful people calling on social media and traditional media for Civil War, the dissolution of many constitutional rights, and generally people who share differing opinions. I don't think that's who we are as Americans, and I don't think that's really who we want to be either. The idea of this campaign is to remind veterans of different political persuasions that we all wore the same uniform, did the same jobs, and loved each other unequivocally."
The video was produced by Palmisciano and Tim Kennedy, a former UFC fighter and Army Green Beret, and is part of an effort by Ranger Up to encourage veterans to take a leadership role in creating a more civil discourse leading up to this year's Veterans Day.
"We're supposed to be tough men and women who have gone through a lot of things. We were taught to control emotion and use training and logic to solve problems in the worst situations," Kennedy said in a recent statement. "There is nothing scary about being a decent human being and having a conversation, so why do we allow ourselves to degrade others. I'm personally a passionate supporter of the 2nd Amendment, and yet I've sat down with people who don't understand or appreciate gun rights and had really pleasant conversations. I've taken flak for it, but it was the right thing to do. I look forward to taking flak for this is well."
It's a message worth remembering come Nov. 11.
So, wherever you are, reach out to your old friends from "back then," regardless of who they voted for, or where they stand on a particular issue, and take a moment to swap old stories, try to outdo one another with "who had it worse," and reflect on what you have in common: A history of service, a sense of camaraderie, and the shared values that come with it.