As a nation, we recognize Veterans Day. Originally known as Armistice Day, Veterans Day is officially observed Friday, Nov. 11.
We honor the more than one million American men and women who have given their lives for their country since our nation’s founding.
Our debt to these heroes can never be repaid but our gratitude and respect must last forever. For many veterans, our nation was important enough to endure long separations from their families, miss the births of their children, freeze in sub-zero temperatures, bake in wild jungles, lose limbs, and, far too often, lose their lives.
Military spouses have had to endure career interruptions, frequent changes of address, and a disproportionate share of parental responsibilities. The children often had to endure changes in schools, separation from friends and, hardest of all, the uncertainty of whether or not Mom or Dad will live through their next combat tour.
You cannot fight a war without veterans and while the utopian idea of a society without war is appealing, let us not forget that wars have liberated slaves, stopped genocide and toppled terrorists.
Stephen Ambrose once wrote, “America’s wars have been like rungs on a ladder by which it rose to greatness. No other country has triumphed so long, so consistently or on such a vast scale through force of arms.”
It has been often said that without our veterans, Americans would be speaking some foreign language. Regardless of which view of alternative history you take, we do know that without our veterans America would not be America.
You can show your support by hiring a veteran in your workplace, visiting a VA hospital or donating to a veterans program. Companies should understand that it’s smart business to hire veterans, and when members of the Guard and Reserves deploy, it is America’s business to ensure that their civilian careers do not suffer.
Homelessness is another issue that affects veterans disproportionately. Too often today’s tattered citizen of the street was yesterday’s toast-of-the-town in a crisp uniform with rows of shining medals. This is hardly the “thanks of a grateful nation.” We can do better. We must do better.
Fortunately, veterans don’t ask for much. Benefits are a mere drop in the bucket compared to the financial and human cost of war. But, nonetheless, we still owe them.
In 1979 author Tom Wolfe wrote a book about the Mercury 7 astronauts called “The Right Stuff.” As heroic veterans they certainly earned the distinction, but, my friends, I would not limit the title to that group only. Anyone who has honorably worn a United States military uniform has The Right Stuff. Remember that — the next time you see a homeless person on the street, a man in a wheelchair or a difficult co-worker who is experiencing PTSD.
Historians have said that Dwight Eisenhower was prouder of being a soldier than he was of being the president. And while relatively few veterans ever reach the rank of general, pride in ones’ military service is a bond shared by nearly all who have served. This pride is on display on every obituary page in the country, where military service — regardless of how many decades have passed and subsequent achievements reached — is mentioned with the death notice of nearly every deceased veteran. Can any CEO or distinguished Ivy League graduate truly claim to have more responsibility than the 21-year-old squad leader walking point on patrol in Afghanistan? Yes, my friends, nothing they ever do will eclipse their military service and they do have the right stuff!
Fewer than 10 percent of Americans can claim the title “veteran.” And while the great military phrase “uncommon valor was a common virtue,” has been so often repeated that it risks becoming a cliché, it is no less true.
In 1789 George Washington said: “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country.” We must ask ourselves as a nation, are we serving veterans even half as well as they have served us?
The Walter E. Cole Post 187 American Legion is responsible for conducting the Veterans Day ceremony. It will take place at the Wake Forest Veterans’ Memorial, located on the grounds of the Heritage Golf Course just off Rogers Road. Ample signage throughout greater Wake Forest point directions to the ceremony location. The ceremony will commence at 11 a.m.
As we honor the over 23 million living veterans from the Greatest Generation to the Latest Generation, let us never forget this debt that is owed. No government commission or single dollar amount can adequately re-pay what has been given to all of us throughout our nation’s history.
When we Americans were born, we inherited two very precious gifts. One was the gift of life, and the other was the gift of freedom, both of which were paid for by someone else. I would like to encourage the young people to think about what others have done to make it possible for us to wake up every morning free. Through their blood, service and sacrifice.
We have set aside a moment to honor those veterans who are commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.
Vietnam era veterans will be provided with a commemorative pin designed by the Department of Defense to distinguish their faithful service to the nation. Vietnam veterans were never really shown the nation’s admiration or pride for having answered the call to duty as veterans had before. They have suffered through the sarcasm, arrogance and repugnance after serving admirably, doing whatever was asked of them. It is finally time to heal the wounds of this conflict once and for all.
Please join me and the other members of the American Legion as we pay tribute to these gallant and brave warriors. You can show your support simply by saying “Thank you for your service to our country” to the next veteran you meet.
—Steve Spellman, Commander, Post 187