Let's resolve to honor our veterans

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veterans Day was proclaimed by Congress in 1926, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to commemorate the end of the "war to end all wars."

Except for a few misguided years when it was observed on the fourth Monday in October, Veterans Day has been observed on Nov. 11 ever since.

Sadly, there is no shortage of war veterans to honor this year, and every year.

As Gov. Dave Heineman said in this year's Veterans Day message, "we are at a point as a nation where we can honor several generations of heroes at once -- from those who served in World War II, Korea or Vietnam, through those who have served in Desert Storm, the Balkans and the war on terror.

"Each performed a service that we can never repay," Heineman continued. "However, it is also important to remember the friends and loved ones who did not go to war. Their sacrifices have been every bit as real as the soldiers, airmen and Marines they love who were called to fight. They have held the home front together while fathers and mothers went to war. They, too, deserve our admiration."

How true are the governor's words, especially in this day of an all-volunteer military and heavy dependence on reserve and national guard units. In fact, today's military is virtually unable to go to war without the help of nominally part-time "citizen soldiers."

Today is a good day to take stock of the sacrifice of those who have given the prime years of their lives to the service of their country, not to mention those who have given all.

It's also important to re-examine just how well veterans, especially disabled veterans, are treated in turn by their country. Yes, we give lip service to veterans benefits, but it is tempting, in times of large deficits and the demands of new wars, coupled with natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, to squeeze that portion of the budget.

And that's understandable.

Nearly $60 billion in federal government spending went for veterans benefits programs in fiscal year 2004.

There are 24.5 million military veterans in the United States, including 9.5 million older than 65. Of them, 8.2 million are Vietnam-era veterans and 3.9 million of World War II. Of course, some did double or triple duty -- 383,000 veterans served during Korea and Vietnam, 107,000 served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and 376,000 served in World War II and the Korean War.

Dan Stramel, commander of the McCook American Legion Post, said that when he is contacted by service people returning from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, he points out how they can get involved in numerous worthy activities such as education and patriotic observances.

But he said helping those 24.5 million veterans receive the support they need are among the main purposes of groups like the American Legion and VFW. By banding together, veterans can help make sure those who have sacrificed so much receive what they are due.

They shouldn't have to. On this Veterans Day, America should recommit herself to honoring those who have made our way of life possible.

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