The Veterans Day parade starts at 11 a.m. And it is worth taking in. In fact, as we go about our daily lives today, we should all take a moment to remember those brave men and women who have served to protect the United States as members of the armed forces, in war and in peacetime.
They are everywhere and can be anyone: men, women, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers. They are our neighbors, our friends and our co-workers.
They have endured long periods separated from their loved ones, stateside and overseas, often returning home only to be deployed again – sometimes repeatedly. They have endured battle in foxholes, in jungles, in freezing cold and scorching desert heat.
They have seen friends and colleagues die and will have to carry those memories with them forever. They have suffered injuries – physical, mental and emotional – that may hamper their day-to-day existence for as long as they live.
The number of American casualties in wars past and present is staggering. According to Department of Defense figures, more than 400,000 Americans have been killed in U.S. wars in the last 100 years. And that number includes only battle deaths, those “killed in action.” The ratio of wounded to killed has varied greatly, but in that same century more than 1.5 million Americans were wounded, too often horribly. And in the nation’s earlier years disease took more lives among the troops than actual combat.
War is every bit as terrible and costly as can be imagined. And few among us have any realistic understanding of what so many veterans have endured.
It is not just those killed or wounded who have sacrificed and suffered. Their friends and families are touched as well, many in ways not always immediately apparent. And the numbers cited do not include deaths and injuries of U.S. troops stationed around the world. While certainly not bearing the same risk as those in combat zones, they too are away from home and in more danger than most in the civilian workforce. The number of lives lost in training accidents is not insignificant.
None of this is contingent upon or even connected to anyone’s political leanings or feelings about what the United States has done or should be doing with regard to military action. One hard-earned lesson of Vietnam is that any such criticism is rightly directed at the country’s political leaders, not those who seek only to serve their country. Indeed, that service is all the more difficult when the mission is controversial.
So while the stresses of everyday life may get to us today, be grateful that there are those among us willing to put themselves between our families and those who would do us harm. Take a moment to remember and give thanks to those who have served our nation.
The Veterans Day Parade begins at 11 a.m. on Main Avenue. After the parade, the Veterans Committee of the Elks Lodge will offer a free lunch for veterans at the Elks Lodge on the corner of East Second Avenue and Ninth Street.