Opinion: A day to recognize and remember our veterans
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
On this 11th day of the 11th month in the year 2020, America will stop its business and its busyness to recognize its veterans.
No war has been declared by Congress since Dec. 8, 1941. And yet, some 20 million veterans live among America’s 328 million people. All of those men and women served at the behest of Congress, on behalf of the people of the United States.
This is the moment that offers an opportunity to understand what those soldiers were asked to protect.
The answer includes all of us who are the present iteration of America. Our country, now 2 1/2 centuries old, has passed its childhood and can see itself in the broader scope of a planet’s entirety. Slowly, surely, America has led the way toward the founders’ dream of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Those are not empty words, though many speak them without appreciation of the cost they have demanded. Granted, there are individuals who struggle in the throes of poverty and neglect and, yes, discrimination. There are, however, many, many more who can tell of the difficulties their grandparents experienced that make today’s concerns seem small in comparison.
All of us are beneficiaries of that dream, some of our inheritance good and some of it not so good. In either case, we who are alive today will use or abuse and then leave. With each generation, a maturing conception of those old words has developed. America can stand proud, in spite of its present shortsightedness, as its people rise on the way toward the next big step into an even greater maturity.
The path to that future clarifies through the eyes of those who have stood on the firing line. They have earned their place in the nation that leads the world toward the vision of tomorrow’s brightness.
This day chosen to honor our veterans marks the anniversary of the cease fire that ended WWI, but the national holiday is not about war. Rather, two minutes of silence, across the country, remind us to nurture their place with us at home.
No veteran living today served in the armed forces 100 years ago when close to 5 million Americans were on duty in the military. Half of that number sailed across the Atlantic, marched into France and became the major force behind ending The Great War.
Three decades later, their grandchildren fought in another conflagration. Then, too, almost every family in America had someone either in the military or in production of materials for the military. That was when some 16 million of the country’s soldiers fought against the AXIS armies that included Japan and Germany.
Only a few thousand men and women remain alive to relate the heroism of that Second World War. Nevertheless, the 20 million veterans of 20th and 21st century conflicts now in cities and towns of the United States of America are very much alive, vital in their communities. The 1,244 who share our Routt County home walk among us on the way to work and along the paths that connect us to each other every day.
We who are Americans will await the return of more than 1 million of our men and women serving on active duty in over 150 countries around the surface of the Earth. Another 800,000 serve in active reserve. They are all ours, and we are all proud to call them our own.
Born out of what has been, we live in what will come to be.
Harriet Freiberger has lived in North Routt County since 1982.
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