EDITORIAL: Show a Veteran You're Grateful
Shake a veteran's hand today. Maybe even give him -- or her -- a hug.
Unlike Memorial Day (formerly Decoration Day), which honors the memory of armed services members who died in war, Veterans Day (formerly Armistice Day) is an occasion for Americans to express their appreciation toward all who have served in uniform -- whether in peacetime or war.
Many veterans, perhaps most, choose not to trumpet their service. You won't catch them parading around in a VFW cap or attending an American Legion meeting -- not that there's anything wrong with those fine organizations. They're just more comfortable going about their daily lives as your neighbors, friends or co-workers, modestly declining to make a show of the years they spent looking after our national interests while serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard.
There was a time, to our shame, when military service was not universally honored among Americans. Feelings against our involvement in the Vietnam War grew so heated that some protesting civilians made the mistake of taking it out on those in uniform -- some of whom came home only to be greeted with jeering and hostility instead of the respect they deserved as individuals who had just been through a wrenching experience that they personally had done nothing to create.
Fortunately, our citizenry seems to have outgrown such shortsighted and wrongheaded attitudes. No matter how many doubts some Americans may harbor about the wisdom of their government's policies in Iraq or Afghanistan, there have been few examples of anyone showing anything but honor and gratitude toward anyone they encounter who has been out there defending our freedoms on the field of battle.
You probably know a veteran personally. He may be among the sadly dwindling numbers of those who fought in World War II. She might have served in Korea, Vietnam or in some outpost during the Cold War -- or just put in time in a motor pool at Fort Bragg. Or maybe the veteran you know wore -- or is still wearing -- the modern "digital camouflage" pattern of post-9/11 service.
This veteran to whom you owe so much is not expecting any attention, so surprise him or her with a pat on the back, an offer of lunch -- or just a passing thanks.
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