While the fact that Veteran’s Day comes on Nov. 11 has to do with its origins as Armistice Day — celebrating the end of World War I — its timing is serendipitous in that most years it falls just a few days to a week after election day in the United States.
There are few times communities, even the nation, are as divided as they are when it comes to discussing politics, and leading up to election days is when the rhetoric is often the sharpest, emotions are the highest, and that feeling of division is the deepest.
Then comes Veteran’s Day. In a time when precious few concepts seem to unite the country any longer, this is one of those days when all people should be able to come together for a common cause: celebrating and expressing gratitude to the nations’ veterans.
The United States has played a singularly vital role in the history of the world over the past century, whether it’s been through military engagement that often determined the fate of a war; economic leadership which has had ripple affects through nearly every nation on earth; or as the nation that so often gives money, resources, and support to the poor and needy around the world.
A major reason America has stood as the nation that could do this, is because of the service of the county’s veterans. Plain and simple, a major part of what has made America a great nation is the men and women who have served in the military. Whether America was directly threatened — as it was during World War II — or the reasons for military action was a little more obscure, or even during peace time, the willingness of those who served to put on that uniform and do whatever is asked of them has kept America safe and secure for more than two centuries.
America has been in plenty of armed conflicts over the years, some major wars, others covert operations that perhaps many of us don’t even know about. Politicians and historians can argue over the relative right or wrong of those operations, but the one thing we should all agree upon is that we owe a debt of gratitude to those who have served, to the sacrifices endured by veterans.
And there are most definitely sacrifices. As our staff writer, Andy Winemiller, mentions in his column on this page today, there are a number of personal sacrifices those in the military endure. Uncertainty and fear, a loss of individual freedom in order to serve, living with the constant risk of injury or death are the ones that come to mind so often. But there are others as well. Oftentimes those serving are away from family at key moments — the birth of a baby, the first words or steps of a child, the final days of a parent or grandparent — these are all moments those serving will never get back.
Yet they do it, because they know their nation needs them, and sacrifice is something they’re willing to endure to offer that service.
We hope that every one reading these words will find a way to express gratitude to a veteran, whether that be by a simply “thanks,” or picking up the tab on a vet’s dinner bill. But more than just today, we hope honoring and respecting those who have served becomes a daily exercise, so those men and women who have been in uniform never have to question their nation’s thankfulness for that service.