Editorial:

We owe our veterans an ongoing debt of gratitude

Posted 11/9/21

It was in 1919 — exactly one year after the fighting in the Great War came to an end — that Americans first began setting aside Nov. 11 as a day to honor our veterans.

President …

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Editorial:

We owe our veterans an ongoing debt of gratitude

Posted

It was in 1919 — exactly one year after the fighting in the Great War came to an end — that Americans first began setting aside Nov. 11 as a day to honor our veterans.

President Woodrow Wilson said the day was one that would “be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice …”

However, peace proved fleeting, as just two decades later, the Great War would become known as World War I — followed by an even longer and far bloodier conflict we now call World War II. 

President Dwight D. Eisenhower formally created Veterans Day in 1954, renaming Armistice Day in recognition of all the military members who’ve helped preserve this nation through its wars.

“On that day, let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom,” Eisenhower wrote, “and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.”

Never again has the world seen the kind of all-consuming conflict witnessed in World War II, but America’s service members have been called to take up arms in other conflicts: such as the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Shield/Desert Storm and the Global War on Terror.

It’s one reason why we owe our veterans our continuing gratitude, because the work to secure our nation and freedom not only involves putting American lives on the line, but the work never ends. Many from Wyoming have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country, most recently Marine Rylee McCollum of Jackson, who was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in August. Many others have emerged from their service with lifelong injuries to their bodies and minds.

Military members never know exactly what they will face, whether it means being called to fight overseas or to help out on the homefront. Just this year, for instance, members of the Wyoming National Guard have helped secure the U.S. Capitol and to provide assistance at Powell Valley Healthcare, Cody Regional Health and other healthcare facilities that have been strained by the pandemic. And long after their time on active or reserve duty comes to an end, many veterans continue to serve in their communities.

Consider those in the Powell and Cody area who volunteer their time to serve on honor guards, paying tribute to fellow veterans who have passed away. Then there are those who help fellow vets struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts or other challenges, such as the “Battling 22” group at Powell’s American Legion Hughes-Pittinger Post 26 or Downrange Warriors in Cody. 

The fact is we owe our veterans a great deal, and often a debt we can’t repay. Yet some veterans returned home from conflicts like the Korean and Vietnam wars not to heroes’ welcomes and gratitude, but to indifference or even hostility.

Veterans Day is a great time to offer a heartfelt “thank you” or a “welcome home” to a veteran you know, but there’s no need to stop there. In the same way that our service members constantly protect us, let’s try to continually thank them.

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