Veterans Day should honor all who served

Yesterday was Veterans Day.

The day was originally set aside as Armistice Day—the day World War I came to an end.

I think it’s fitting the day is now celebrated as Veterans Day because no one hates war more than the men and women who have to fight it.

Now of course, there are many idealistic anti-military, anti-war, anti-anything people out there who think anyone who serves his country is a knuckle-dragging, mindless idiot—and they’re entitled to their opinion. The constitution gives them that right.

But what many of these “antis” don’t realize is that they have their rights because this country has always been blessed with people who are willing to make sacrifices to defend our way of life and make sure the freedoms guaranteed by our constitution will not go unprotected.

When I talk about sacrfifices I’m talking about more than the almost one million men and women who have died in this country’s wars. I’m talking about the millions of men and women who have left their families, jobs and homes and put their lives on the line when our country has needed them.

There are also the millions of men and women who have served their nation in peacetime. All too often the sacrifices that these peace time warriors make go unnoticed.

Training for combat is hazardous. Servicemen die every year while training.

But that risk and the chance of one day being called to war are facts of life peacetime servicemen deal with every day.

That fact hit home with me while I was in Army Basic Training.

I wasn’t on a military post more than 36 hours before I saw my first dead soldier.

e was an Alaskan eskimo—not used to the heat and humidity of Georgia. He ignored warnings to drink plenty of water, and one night after a particularly hot and humid day, he went to sleep and just never woke up again.

I took his death in stride, putting it off as a fluke.

But I didn’t have wait long to see a second peacetime soldier die.

We were bivouacked across a road from a night-fire range. I was on guard duty when the firing stopped prematurely and a few moments later a helicopter came overhead, shining its searchlight.

It landed near the range and my Drill Sergeant sent me over to find out what happened.

A few minutes later, I was looking at a young soldier who had collapsed from exhaustion and dragged his rifle into his concrete-lined foxhole while still keeping his finger on the trigger—firing on automatic.

It was a stomach-wrenching sight and the memory of that soldier’s last cries kept me awake the whole night and still comes back to haunt me every time I step on a firing range.

But the servicemen who die in training are not the only peacetime veterans who have been sacrificing.

Every person who has ever served this country has made sacrfices for this nation.

But we haven’t always given the veterans of this nation the support and understanding they deserve.

It took more than a decade for this nation to welcome back its veterans from Vietnam.

And right now, there are an estimated 500,000 veterans who wander this country without homes.

On that one day a year we call Veterans Day, we should not focus only on those who have died.

Perhaps instead of closing down for a day, the businesses and people of this nation should donate a day’s wages and profits to ensuring that this nation’s veterans can at least have a roof over their heads.