In the deeply polarized society of America 2017, there is one thing every resident of the North Coast can agree on.
We owe a debt of gratitude to our nation’s veterans.
The community gatherings and activities this week and this weekend honoring Veterans Day on Saturday give us pause to thank the men and women who donned the uniform and served the United States with honor.
The roots of the commemoration date back to 1918 when The Great War, later renamed World War I, ended with an armistice at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month. It is ironic that author H.G. Wells and President Woodrow Wilson both labeled it “The War to End All Wars.” Both did so correctly suspecting even more carnage was to come.
There are 18.8 million U.S. military veterans, including 1.6 million women, according to the most recent statistics from the Census Bureau. More than 9 million of those are 65 or older. There are less than 800,000 still alive from World War II, 1.6 million from the Korean War and 6.7 million from the Vietnam War era. More recently, we have added vets from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other strategic missions around the globe, including Africa and Syria.
Today is not the time to examine the reasons that number is growing. We can argue with why politicians — most of whom have not served in uniform themselves — send our soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors off to wars. But we cannot argue with the commitment of these men and women fulfilling their duty with every breath they take. We must support them in every way possible.
Serving in the military is a selfless act. For all those who serve, it is an acknowledgment that they are part of a larger whole. They adopt the regulations of their branch of the service, embrace its traditions, and put their personal lives on hold. In doing so they make a pact with the nation that they and their families will not be abandoned if they come to harm. We must care for them when they return broken, either in body or spirit. It is a debt we should never shirk.
Looking for a definition of a veteran some while ago, we came across one that seems appropriate about why we should say “thank you” — not just once a year on Veterans Day, but on every day of the year.
“A veteran is a fellow citizen who at one significant point in his or her life made out a blank check payable to the United States of America for any amount up to and including their life.”