War is hell. There is no denying the carnage war creates and the human devastation a military engagement leaves behind. Today, our nation is engaged in two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that is exacting a heavy toll upon innocent civilians and our nation’s women and men in military service. While we lament the continued use of violence to settle international disputes, we honor those who have served our nation on this Veterans Day.
Military service is a tremendous sacrifice for those who enlist and for the families they leave behind. It is no understatement that it is one of the highest forms of patriotism. Just watch the “arrival” ceremony of the war dead at Dover Air Force Base or hear the wail of taps at a graveside service in Arlington National Cemetery, and the spirit of selflessness of our armed forces will become evident. While we debate the political decisions that send our troops into battle, we cannot allow our philosophical and ideological differences to deter us from honoring the women and men of our military.
They return home, proud warriors, aged and hardly the young spirits who walked into a military recruiting station. While we casually mark Veterans Day and Memorial Day, those who have borne the burden of defending our nation are too often an afterthought. The horrors they have witnessed will forever affect them and many veterans will never be the same. The cadence of the military parade is a constant reminder that time marches on but the hurt of war lingers on.
We do not do enough to support our veterans. Should we allow a soldier injured while serving our country in uniform face treatment in a substandard military hospital and not receive the highest quality of care? Why should veterans return “home” and face homelessness? Why should the families of those who have sacrificed their lives in the defense of this nation face financial hardship? Patriotism among civilians has to be more than talk. For those of us who did not enlist in military service, we owe a debt of gratitude to those who have answered the call. It is not enough to wave the flag today. We must demand that our nation fully care for our veterans.
Today on some foreign soil, American soldiers are waking up, preparing to defend our nation and not knowing if this sunrise is the last they will see. As they don the armaments of battle, many will think of sons, daughters, husbands and wives left behind, and pray that their sacrifice and work will not be in vain. In some military hospital, an injured soldier must come to terms with a devastating disability and find the courage to rebuild a life shattered by war. On some street in America, the tattered homeless person the passerby ignores is a military veteran who had no home to return to after serving our nation.
America, we must, we can do better by our veterans.
On this Veterans Day, we urge you to say – thank you – to someone who has served our nation in the military. You can make that thank you even more meaningful by letting your Congressional representatives in the House and Senate know that you support our veterans and expect our nation to stand by them.