by Linda Jimenez

Chief Diversity Officer and VP Diversity & Inclusion
WellPoint, Inc.

Freedom often comes at a price. I was reminded of this recently while attending an awards luncheon for distinguished military service in our nation’s capitol. What struck me most was the elaborate, solemn ceremony conducted by the military to honor fallen family members, held even before recognizing the award recipients.

I leaned over to the female officer next to me, laid my hand on hers and said, “Thank you for all you do.” She smiled back and said, “I truly appreciate those words, as I don’t often hear them.” We talked about patriotism and what it means to each of us, and she told me a story that really got under my skin. Every morning at her daughter’s high school they recite the Pledge of Allegiance. She told me that only her daughter and a few other students recite the Pledge. The rest of the students either mock it or ignore it.

“I am humbled that so many Americans choose to serve, particularly in a time when the risk of death or disability is more than theoretical.”

I find that so disappointing it makes my heart ache. Our country was founded based on freedom, and in many parts of the world people are fighting for freedom and democracy right now. The Pledge of Allegiance reminds me of how lucky we are.

As a general rule, I look at diversity as “all-inclusive” and I respect differences in race, gender, age, religion, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity and military service. However, this recent experience made me seriously consider how I can be a stronger diversity practitioner and truly honor our military personnel.

Growing up during the Vietnam War, I was very aware of the draft and the constant worry of my male friends that they might be called to serve at any time. Today, the government doesn’t have to twist people’s arms to fill our military ranks; luckily, we have enough volunteers. I am humbled that so many Americans choose to serve, particularly in a time when the risk of death or disability is more than theoretical.

So I feel compelled to stand up for those who are putting their lives on the line for us. Regardless of our political views, they deserve to be treated courteously.

Those who do not come home deserve to be remembered with honor. Those who do return deserve to come home to respect and gratitude. While many of us have differing views about war and politics, I believe it is critical that we not only show respect for our country and for those who serve, but that we teach our children to show that same respect.

There are a variety of ways to show respect and gratitude for the people who serve our country:

  • When you see a person in a military uniform, shake his or her hand and say “thank you for serving our country.”
  • Put together a care package for deployed troops — get your colleagues and neighbors to help. You can adopt a platoon by going to In the past, you could wrap up a care package and mail it to “Any Service Member” for the holidays, but with increased mail restrictions, it’s better to help through financial contributions, letter-writing and e-mail, by purchasing authorized pre-made care packages, or by volunteering time through non-profits.
  • Contribute to Operation USO Care Package. For every $25 donation you make, the USO will send a care package with needed and requested items valued at approximately $75 to a deployed service man or woman.

Ten years after 9-11, we still live in a world rife with religious, ethnic and often extremist nationalism. The nation’s military service men and women put their lives on the line for us, whether it is to defend our freedom or to maintain peace in war-torn countries across the globe.

As the holiday season approaches and I am surrounded by my family and friends, I will pause to remember those who gave their lives to secure my freedom and those who remain in service — many of them far from their own friends and families. I hope that you too will consider your gift of freedom.

This article has been sponsored by:
Society for Human Resource Management

Linda Jimenez

Linda Jimenez

Chief Diversity Officer and VP Diversity & Inclusion
WellPoint, Inc.

Linda Jimenez is a native of San Antonio, Texas, and attended the University of Texas at Austin where she received her BA with honors. She is also a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law and has spent 20 years specializing in labor and employment law.