Veterans Day commemorations today will be colored by the tragic rampage last week at Fort Hood, Texas, that left 13 people dead and 31 injured.
What should have been complete safety inside the largest military training reservation in the United States became a killing zone, with an Army officer the shooter, and whose motivation remains under investigation.
That terrible event aside, almost 24 million living men and women who served in an era beginning with World War I and extending to the present are honored today for their patriotism, courage, heroism, and in some cases, sacrificial and/or disabling injuries in the line of duty.
The honor applies equally to all who have worn the uniform of the armed services of the United States. The eldest is Frank Buckles, 108, the sole surviving American veteran of World War I; the newest will be the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have worn the uniforms of the armed branches.
Every special day honoring the military in a sense honors those who have died serving our nation, but veterans day is focused on the survivors – those who stand among us as powerful and vocal reminders that service to the country can never be taken lightly and that it should be cited every year, a reminder that the need to defend, and sometimes fight, continues.
Veterans Day was born at the end of World War I, starting as Armistice Day for the cessation of hostilities that marked an end to combat between the Allies and the Central Powers, a war involving both empires and democracies.
That war, called the Great War by its generation, inspired an idealism that it was the war to end all wars. Its was more horrific than any previous conflict, killing more soldiers and civilians than ever before with the ferocity of mechanized armor, aircraft, modern guns,, killer chemicals, battleships called dreadnoughts, and stealthy submarines.
Yet, barely a generation later, ideologies driven by men named Hitler and Mussolini, and the imperial designs of Japan, plunged the world into war again, even more lethal and unrestrained.
Armistice Day became Veterans Day after World War II to honor all veterans, in peace and in war.
While another world war has been avoided, the need for powerful standing armies and other forces has not diminished. The United States is engaged in a two-front war against stateless terrorism, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those who have served in those conflicts are among today’s honorees.
All of us owe the day’s honor to all men and women who served our nation in uniform.
NEMS Daily Journal