We Can’t Over-Estimate The Debt We Owe To Our Veterans

Selection of Nov. 11 as the date each year on which we Americans honor veterans of military service is significant. It is a reminder that as devoutly as we may wish for peace, we must recognize it can never be a reality.

For many years, Nov. 11 was celebrated as Armistice Day, in recognition of the end of World War I — the 100th anniversary of which is today. In 1954, Congress changed the observance to Veterans Day.

By then, any hope the 1914-18 conflict was, as some proclaimed after it ended, “the war to end wars” had been dashed.

Only the most naive or deluded harbor any illusion that humankind will eschew armed force in certain situations. That reality means we Americans will have to rely always on men and women willing to don uniforms, shoulder weapons, and put themselves into harm’s way to safeguard us.

Each year on Memorial Day, we honor those who have laid down their lives in military service. Our reverence for them is appropriate.

But today, Veterans Day, we pause to express our deep gratitude to all those who have served and are serving in the armed forces.

There are about 20.8 million of them. We see them every day, usually without knowing the debt we owe them. The young man beside you in class at college may have spent time in Afghanistan. The young woman who helps you at the hospital may have used her skills in Iraq.

That older gentleman in church who sings a little louder when the hymn is “Onward Christian Soldiers” served with some of them on Guadalcanal.

The gentle, pleasant woman who helps you select just the right Christmas gift in the store cried about the men she could not save while she was a nurse in Korea.

And that American Legion member infuriated about football players “taking a knee” during the national anthem still nurses a bad knee from a bullet wound in Vietnam.

Service in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard is not without risk, even in peacetime. Warplanes crash during training missions. Sailors die in ship collisions. Men and women on Coast Guard cutters confront drug smugglers.

In a thousand ways, life in the military can be dangerous. Yet in the millions, good, patriotic Americans still serve us.

Without them, the freedom and prosperity we Americans enjoy would not exist. It is impossible to over-estimate the debt we owe them.

Today, then, we thank them all. God bless them and keep them in His care.