Veterans Day, a national tradition dating back to November 11th, 1918, is soon to be upon us. The end of the “War to end all Wars”, marked by a cessation of hostilities between German and Allied forces, was put into force on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” Originally conceived to recognize the end or WW I, the purpose of Veterans Day is now “to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”
While many veterans who served before 1973 may have been drafted and therefore not necessarily “volunteers” they nonetheless sacrificed much in service to America. And most indeed volunteered to serve, even during the period when the draft was in effect. Since 1973 we have been an all-volunteer force and except for a few lean years, the Services haven’t had much trouble in filling enlistment quotas. I marvel at the extraordinary sacrifices our active duty, guard, reserve and Coast Guard men and women in uniform make every day: risk to life in conflicts, separation from family and friends, careers put on hold, dangers at work, and countless others sacrifices that only they know. So I am proud to be among their number, although I am mindful that many have sacrificed so much more than I. They will be on my mind throughout National Veterans and Families Month. If you are looking for a way to honor those who have sacrificed much, there are many options…. give a homeless vet food and shelter, donate to a veteran-focused charity, etc. It’s commonplace now for people to respond, “Thank you for your service,” when they learn you are or were a member of our Armed Services. When you utter that phrase this year, I hope you will remember that it’s more than a phrase, but a genuine expression of your gratitude for their service and the service and sacrifice of all those who have gone before them.
by Lewis Crenshaw, Academy Fellow