Monday is Veterans Day — Remember and honor

Published 8:37 am Monday, November 11, 2019

World War I ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. That is when the armistice with Germany took hold. It was one year later, on Armistice Day, that President Woodrow wrote, “To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.”
At the urging of veteran organizations, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.
Today, the ranks of World War II veterans are thinning. Those who served in Vietnam represent the biggest portion of today’s census of veterans — in Tennessee, 167,762 veterans. After that, it is the ranks of those who served Gulf duty who count heavy in the roll call of veterans — 90,187 Tennesseans served in the First Gulf War and 72,074 in the Second Gulf War. And while we are not formally at war anywhere, men and women still die, still come home maimed, still come home damaged from service to their country and in duty to security around the world. The globe remains a dangerous place for anyone in uniform.
As with any team, no military force succeeds only by virtue of the decorated heroes, the ones who charge into battle, who face down gunfire and bombs. No infantryman succeeds without the determined support of those who provide communications, transportation, and even the basics of chow. Every veteran we have met remains proud of his or her service, no matter the job, no matter the service.
The nation’s collective promise to returning soldiers includes that they need not bear their sacrifice and wounds alone, that they won’t be forgotten and their families will not have to face the future with uncertainty. The nation has promised that we will remember to embrace and care for survivors of those who do not return.
Military service requires a variety of sacrifices — distance from family, interruption of careers and of course, putting oneself in harm’s way, in real and present danger.
Today, some World War II veterans, now diminished in number by age, will be gathering at some Veterans Day ceremonies, and Americans everywhere must make it a point to recognize and thank them. Theirs was indeed the Greatest Generation, marked by the service of so many who literally left their homes, left the farm fields and the factories, to go to strange lands and save their country and the freedom of those within it for the generations to come.
But we must remember as well, and salute, literally and figuratively, the ones who followed, the ones who fought in Korea and Vietnam and in the Persian Gulf and in the war on terror thousands of miles from home. And even those who did not see combat served with honor and distinction.
For that service and those sacrifices the men and women who serve and have served in the armed forces deserve our enduring thanks and gratitude.
Different communities will mark this day in a variety of ways. Some groups will place flags on grave sites of veterans, though this day is not Memorial Day to honor the fallen but rather a recognition of all who serve or have served. There even will be parades and some medal ceremonies.
Veterans Day comes only a short time away from Thanksgiving Day. That feels right, because both holidays make us count our blessings and give thanks.

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