Sadly, those who thought the horror of World War I would teach the nations of the world the futility and inhumanity of armed combat were wrong. Since then we have seen World War II, the largest collection of armed forces the world has ever seen. The “police action” in Korea followed that, and then Vietnam. Armed forays into Grenada and Panama came next, and then our Air Force flew over the skies of Bosnia. And then, our service members were sent to Iraq and we still have an armed presence in Afghanistan.
For some reason our governments too often see no response other than war, and the brave men and women in uniform answer the call. They are our veterans, our protectors. They are also our sons and brothers, our fathers and uncles. And in today’s world, they are also increasingly our daughters and sisters, mothers and wives.
It is entirely appropriate to single out our veterans for special honor and remembrance on this day. But it seems to be not enough, either. We should honor and remember our veterans every day of the year.
Let’s think for a moment of the sacrifices they make for us. Far too many make the ultimate sacrifice, giving their very lives on a battlefield far from home so that we who live here may enjoy the freedom that defines our way of life.
But there are other sacrifices as well. Those who go into combat often come back with broken bodies that require long hard months or even years of rehab to return to only the basic movements of life. Others return with the horror of war so firmly etched in their minds that they never find the elusive peace that allows the rest of us to sleep soundly through the night.
And even those veterans who survive with no physical or mental scarring have paid a steep price. They have given years of their life often separated from their families, or hauling spouses and children around the world, from base to base, going where needed rather than where they might want.
Once our veterans separate from service, they are still called on to sacrifice, often simply because of bureaucrats who fail to handle paperwork properly, or because of inadequate medical care that doesn’t meet their needs.
We owe them more than that. The gleaming new Veterans Home in Pell City should be the norm rather than the exception. Educational opportunity should require no effort outside the classroom, instead of veterans chasing their well-earned benefits through a paper nightmare that at times leaves tier tuition in limbo rather than just paid.
The pay and benefits for our military should be ample, not just enough to get by on. We ask the men and women of the Coast Guard, the Air Force, the Navy, the Army and the Marines to give their all for us. They deserve better than we sometimes give them.
At least today, on this special day set aside just for them, let’s pause for a moment and let them know we appreciate them and what they do for us all.
They deserve no less.