Thomas Jefferson famously said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
That price includes a lot of blood and sacrifice on the part of American veterans who have put on the uniform and stood in harm’s way. Our veterans are the tip of the spear of eternal vigilance, keeping Americans safe to fight for freedoms at home.
Amercian fighters have battled enemies of freedom from without so the rest of us can live safely and productively.
Without American veterans, there is no America.
So we celebrate Veterans Day Friday with full-throated support and thankfulness to all of our veterans.
As time moves inexorably forward, it was no surprise the last U.S. veteran of World War I died this past year. Therefore, all 24 million veterans being remembered this Veterans Day fought in the wars following, or served between wars. There has been the need for too many — too many wars and too much sacrifice.
But we remain free for having fought on the side of right, defending the one country that is a bulwark of freedom globally. It is our contention that American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have made the entire world a safer, freer place with their sacrifices. History makes the point.
• Would the world be better if Imperial Japan or Nazi Germany were the ruling powers?
• Would the world be better if there were no South Korea and the whole Korean peninsula was under the rule of insane familial dictators with nukes?
• Would the world be better if China’s hegemony of Asia was long established and it had conquered neighbors or created satellites, a la the Soviet Union, because we did not make Vietnam so costly?
• Would the world be better if the Soviet Union remained a world superpower, stocked to the brim with modern nuclear weapons, spreading its brand of Communist tyranny everywhere?
• Would the world be better if Saddam Hussein controlled Kuwait and the Persian Gulf oil, able to disrupt Western economies and drive us into depressions?
• Would the world be better if Serbia and its genocidal leaders were still in power?
• Would the world be better if Iraq and Afghanistan were still havens for Islamic terrorists plotting against the United States?
The answers to all of these are self-evident. The world is a better place, thanks to our veterans who fought in all of those wars, including the Cold War.
This day is often overlooked
To the veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the war in Serbia, the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War, we as a nation say: Thank You.
In our gratitude, we remember that many came back from service with injuries that will have an impact on the rest of their lives and their families’ lives. They paid the price in legs and arms and eyesight, and many paid a price in the loss of peace of mind. Surviving a battle can leave scars that don’t show; we remember those veterans, also.
And although this is not Memorial Day — which justly honors American soldiers killed in wars — we never, ever forget those who gave the last full measure, who traded their lives for our freedoms, who traded their futures to ensure our futures. To the men and women who fell on the battlefields of Europe, the Pacific, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, we say: Thank you.
Veterans Day is one of the more overlooked holidays. It is often confused with Memorial Day, and it is not one that gins up consumer consumption, as do Christmas, Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July and Halloween. Remembering veterans is more the act of going to a parade, often on a workday.
But that should not diminish the day’s value. It is one of our most important national holidays, because it is on the backs of veterans that we are, and remain, free.
Veterans Day has its roots at the end of the “war to end all wars,” or World War I. It was known originally as Armistice Day, a U.S. legal holiday to honor the end of World War I, which officially occurred Nov. 11, 1918. The legislation enacting it officially as Armistice Day was signed in 1938, ironically the year before Nazi Germany invaded Poland to trigger World War II.
In 1953, Alvin King, of Emporia, Kan., came up with the idea of expanding Armistice Day to all veterans. The owner of a shoe-repair shop, King had been involved with the American War Dads during World War II. He pushed his local chamber, then his congressman and finally persuaded veterans organizations to join the cause. In 1954, Congress responded to this tenacity and changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor the American veterans of all wars.
On Aug. 4, 2001, Congress designated the week of Nov. 11 through Nov. 17 as “National Veterans Awareness Week.” The resolution calls for elementary and secondary schools to educate students on the contributions and sacrifices of veterans.
Salute them all
Sarasota and Manatee counties are blessed to have an abundance of veterans from all the wars, but particularly World War II and the Korean War. Retirement demographics ensure that we will continue to have plenty of veterans in our community.
We salute them all, because their sacrifices have created a debt that the nation truly cannot repay.
And we salute those who still serve and will serve, because they remain the line between the enemies who want to destroy a peaceful, industrious America. Our enemies were the Kaiser; then Japan and Germany; then the Soviet Union, along with many smaller countries. Now they are the Islamist extremists and their allies.
The world never has been or ever will be a peaceful, harmless place. We will always need the men and women willing to don uniforms and take up arms to protect the United States.
On this Veterans Day, let those of us not in uniform salute those who have been, and those who are, with utmost respect and gratitude.