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Veterans Day means many different things to different people… a day off from work or school to spend with family; a holiday parade; perhaps a free meal at a local restaurant; a simple “thank you for your service” from a stranger. As I write this piece, and try to reflect on just what Veterans Day means to ME, I can’t help but think about the importance and impact of another day as well, Tuesday, November 8th, Election Day.

In my mind, and in my heart, Veterans Day and Election Day are inextricably connected. As a Veteran, I served because I believe in the freedoms espoused in our nation’s founding documents. We, as Veterans, believe in a free, democratic society. And we believe in the crucial part our military plays in protecting those freedoms. Election Day is the ultimate embodiment of those freedoms, and of our democracy. It is the day that each and every one us gets to have a say in determining how our representatives govern, and the day that we get to decide what kind of nation we want to be. And for me, THIS is why I served…to protect that voice, to ensure that everyone gets to enjoy the fruits of our free society.

Veterans Day is about honoring our past and present military members, about paying our respects to those who protect our freedoms. What better way to honor them than to exercise the most important freedom and right we have…to Vote! I hope each of you honored our Veterans by exercising the most important right they protect.

But now, let’s be frank. Many of our LGBT military families and allies are in shock about this election, and there are so many emotions swirling around, the largest being fear. I’ll admit it — I am personally afraid. While you may disagree, I’m fearful the very system of checks and balances established by our founders to protect against tyranny is about to be tested. I’m fearful of what this election may mean for me as a lesbian and as a woman, and for my biracial son. I’m fearful that those who oppose equality for LGBT people will only be emboldened in their aggression.

Yes, I am afraid, but I will not let my fear paralyze me.

I am a Veteran, and I have sworn to support and defend the Constitution. While I personally grieve the outcome of this election, once my time for grief is over, I will rise above the fear, and I will do what I have spent my lifetime doing: my sworn duty.

I will stand up, I will speak out, I will organize, and I will mobilize to defend the Constitution from anyone who seeks to undermine it and my family’s rights and freedoms. I will lock arms with my fellow Veterans, from both sides of the political aisle, and defend the freedoms of all Americans. Because that’s what our nation’s military is charged to do, and we dishonor those who have served if we allow their service and sacrifice to be in vain.  There is no greater way to honor our Veterans, their patriotism, love of country, and sacrifice, than to stand together, and to do our part as citizens to help protect our cherished democracy.