That's what a reader writes in to ask. Here are the details:
"I am a post-9/11 Millennial generation Iraq War veteran who served four years on active duty and two and counting as an active reservist, all as a company grade/junior officer, and I am presently attending graduate school on the G.I. Bill. I have been asked to return to my hometown to speak at my high school to an audience of faculty, staff, ~1,200 students (some of whom have already or will soon enlist or go on to ROTC in college), a delegation of local National Guard personnel, and veterans from World War II through Afghanistan. I think it's important to impart something more than the usual patriotic routine, but I would value the wisdom of your readers in helping to tailor that message -- and I suspect the discussion that would follow would be worthwhile on its merits."
If I were him, I would talk about the role the vet plays in protecting the American experiment, the sense that our nation is always changing, and about other ways to ensure that this noble experiment does not perish from the earth, such as showing toleration and even appreciation for those one disagrees with politically. I might end with a warning against being absolutely certain on any political issue, and ask my listeners to keep in mind Cromwell's admonition: "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken."
But that's just me. If you were invited back to your old high school to speak on Veterans' Day, what would you say? (Besides, "Why didn't Debbie Do-right go out with me?")
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.