Our Voice: Today is Veterans Day; remember the sacrifice

“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave,” Elmer Davis, journalist.

Today is Veterans Day and it is as relevant now as it was in 1919 when it was first proclaimed a national holiday.

It was originally called Armistice Day and marked the end of the fighting between the Allied nations and Germany during World War 1. Still mourning an estimated 320,000 casualties, President Woodrow Wilson set aside Nov. 11 to honor the soldiers who fought and died in battle and reflect on the “solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory...”

Those words still hold meaning today, as we continue to honor the millions of men and women who have served our country. Even for veterans who never saw combat, just being willing to enlist in the military is a courageous decision. It means being willing to put patriotism and service above personal wants. It means being willing to sacrifice family, home and their own lives so the rest of us can live in freedom.

Veterans Day is different than Memorial Day, which is dedicated to those who have died. Veterans Day pays respect to deceased soldiers, but it is also intended to thank and honor those veterans still with us.

There are an estimated 21.9 million veterans living in the United States and an estimated 640,000 in the state of Washington, according to the Veteran’s Affairs office. Throughout the nation there have been parades and ceremonies over the last several days honoring those in the military.

Locally, the city of West Richland held a parade on Saturday, followed by a ceremony on Flat Top Park. In today’s Herald, there are 246 photos that were submitted to our Veterans Day special section, with one page listing 16 veterans from the same family. It can be a solemn exercise going through the names and looking at the photos.

These and other community efforts are touching, but among the most worthwhile are ceremonies that occur in school gymnasiums. Many of the schools in the Tri-Cities make Veterans Day a high priority and students and teachers put in many extra hours of preparation for these special assemblies. In many cases, the students learn patriotic songs, flag etiquette, and an introduction to the various military branches. These are valuable lessons students often don’t have an opportunity to appreciate, so it is great schools are showing kids how important this holiday really is.

Americans owe our freedom to the brave men and women who devoted their lives to serving their country. The Veterans Day holiday meant a lot when it was first enacted 95 years ago and it means just as much now. So be sure and thank a veteran today. They deserve it.