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Friday, November 11 is Veterans Day

We remember our veterans on this very specific day for a very good reason. Because at the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, a halt was called in a war that was called “The Great War” — the “war to end all wars.”

Only it didn’t, of course.

The world has been drawn into countless conflicts since then, as has this country. But at that moment in time activity around the world stopped for a few minutes as the participants in World War I — that brutal war of trenches, mustard gas, and years of stalemate on blood-soaked fields with progress marked by inches — laid down their weapons.

It was so terrible that a day was set aside to remember those who had served, and over time Veterans Day came to include remembering all our military veterans from all conflicts.

There are 18.8 million veterans living in the U.S. today, representing only 7.6 percent of the population. They are predominantly male (91.6 percent). As of 2021, there are 1.3 million U.S. active duty military, down 38 percent from the peak in 1987.

Local American Legion Post 64 head Joe Beakey (right) shakes hands with outgoing state representative Jim Wilson on Veterans Day 2020 for his legislative help in renaming a portion of Highway 291 for Corporal Henry Ray Lines, who was the sole Salida serviceman to die in World War I. Looking on from left are American Legion State Commander Greg Jackson, Legion District Commander Jim Dexter, and members Terry Scanga, and Milton Myers. The local Legion Post is named in memory of Lines. Dan Smith photo.

Many Americans and their families are far distanced from the public service made by America’s active military and our veterans. We neither remember the sacrifices offered during distant wars and far-off conflicts nor do most understand the call of duty that has service men and women away from their families for months, even years at a time.

Very few recognize the toll on families, as remaining spouses or partners “hold down the home fort”, raise the children and try to fill the role of the absent parent. Few know what it is like to be a kid sharing a parent with their country.

In today’s “what’s in it for me” culture, many may feel that “Service” to one’s country is an old-fashioned ideal. But perhaps these days we should be reminded of the difference between serving this country — and the drive for power and control that absorbs some seeking public office. Real service is humble, dedicated, and for some, the cause for which they have laid down their lives.

Democracy isn’t “free”. The freedoms we enjoy have been earned at great price by the few — for the rest of us.

Remember that and thank a veteran or service member today.