Sunday, November 10, 2013

On the eleventh hour...

...of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, World War I ended when the Armistice took effect. Germany was totally defeated, though they never actually surrendered. The war would officially end six months later with the Treaty of Versailles. Though the terms of the treaty were considered unfair by many Germans and ultimately led to the rise of fascism and World War II, the 5th deadliest conflict in World history ended. Over 10 million military personnel were dead worldwide.

Celebrated by many nations annually as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, in 1954 Dwight Eisenhower signed into law a bill that officially that changed Armistice Day into a national day of remembrance for all veterans in the US. Celebrated annually, Veterans Day honors all veterans of all wars. 

Why do we honor our veterans? I actually was asked this question by an adult who had no idea last year. I explained that a veteran is a man or woman who loves his our her country so much that they write out a blank check to government with payment up to and including their life. I don't think he got it.

Veterans fought against all odds to create this country. Veterans fought to keep it free, to unite it when divided, and helped free the World twice. All paid a price in misery, and many paid with their blood, sweat and tears. More than a few paid the ultimate price. We could not be who we are if they did not do what they did. They continue to be willing and ready to fight, and to defend the country and its people, even if it means giving their own lives in the process. We owe them everything.

If you're ever outside and you think it's too cold, remember the soldiers in the Battle of the Bulge. If you ever think you're too hot, think of the men sweating on the islands in the Pacific, in the jungles of Vietnam, in the fields of battle in the Deep South, inside a stifling hot tank, or in the deep recesses of the boiler rooms of countless naval vessels. If you're hungry, again think of those fighting to push back the Bulge, those in countless enemy POW camps, those encamped at Valley Forge, or those under siege at Khe Sahn. Compared to what they were forced to endure, most of our lives have been a breeze.

What did they ask for in return for their service? To paraphrase a line from the fictional John Rambo, they only want their country to love them as much as they love it. So, if you see a veteran, not just today but on any day, thank them for their service and shake their hand. It's a small gesture, but you'll be surprised at how valuable it will be.
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