“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
~ John F. Kennedy
Today we are commemorating Veterans’ Day. The history of this day is an interesting one. For 36 years the day was celebrated in The United States as Armistice Day. November 11 marked the day in 1918 when World War I ended. Ironically, The Armistice – the agreement that ended fighting – was signed “in the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.”
The day was officially recognized as a holiday beginning in 1938. The bill that made Armistice Day a holiday stated that it should be, “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”
After World War II, some people suggested the holiday should be expanded to include all veterans. The bill establishing Veterans’ Day was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1954.
Today we remember the Veterans who risked or lost their lives for the freedoms we enjoy. The impulse to sacrifice for others is a noble one. For that sacrifice, the veterans of wars past and present deserve our respect and our thanks.
Our responsibility, as citizens, however, is to ensure that we hold our leaders to a tough definition of what constitutes legitimate uses for our armed forces. That standard has become dangerously low in an era when these decisions are made on emotion rather than reason. It has been muddied by interests whose main driver is neither the defense of the nation nor the interest of the troops, but profit pure and simple.
Our soldiers have a right to insist that we are clear on who the foe is and why they are the foe BEFORE we commit them to sacrifice. They won’t ask. They are committed to their task and to the command structure. Their love of nation compels them to act even when we have not done our job for them.
We must insist that our leaders not call for these sacrifices unnecessarily. Holding leaders accountable is our responsibility and our soldiers rely on us to do that for them.
One of the best things we can do for veterans is to do our part to create fewer of them in the future. This is our charge as citizens in a free society. The soldiers’ job is to follow orders. Our job is to make sure politicians respond to our core values.
To every veteran who reads these words, “THANK YOU”. We honor the fact that you stand ready to protect us. We must do a better job of honoring you by limiting the sacrifices we ask you to make.