By Col. Jeffrey Holland, 75th Air Base Wing commander Hill Air Force Base – One hundred and 4 years ago, on November 11th, at 5:12 a.m., the armistice to end World War I, the end of the fighting in “war to end all wars,” was signed to take effect at 11 a.m. that same day. In those final intervening hours, an additional 2,738 men were killed and added to the rolls of the 16 million dead and 37 million wounded during that conflict. The armistice concluded the world’s first truly global war but, unfortunately, represented only a pause in local, regional, and even global conflict.
For much of the world, peace has been a passing luxury during the last century. Even the United States, which enjoyed relative peace and prosperity, has been involved in World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operations Deliberate Force and Allied Force, the Global War on Terror, operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and lesser- known and conflicts across the globe. Periods of peace have been relatively rare and brief. Yet, we have not, as a nation, regularly and powerfully felt the impacts of war upon our shores.
We owe much of the prosperity and peace we’ve enjoyed to those who served in our defense, those who stood as our vanguards and placed our freedoms above their own convenience and ambitions. We should all be grateful for the sacrifices of those citizens who served, living and dead, whether they were chosen to serve or smaller-scale volunteered, whether they served a single tour or a career, whether they saw combat or not. We owe all who served our gratitude.
As those serving today, we also recognize our nation’s veterans never served alone. Their families served with them. Their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters served as well, sacrificing so their Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Guardians could serve to their potential. We owe these family members of veterans our thanks.
This Veterans Day, may we recognize that, paraphrasing General MacArthur, “The [Soldier, Sailor, Airmen, Marine and Guardian], above all other people, [pray] for peace, for [they] must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.’ In 1954, President Eisenhower established Veterans Day as a holiday to “let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom.”
I hope that you remember to take time this Veterans Day to express thanks to those who served and their families, recognizing their sacrifice, their suffering, and their service. Though a “thanks for your service” is always welcome, it is even better to express your appreciation in action. I encourage you to take part in or attend a Veterans Day parade, visit a Veterans Home, or simply spend time with our nation’s veterans and their families, learning their stories and why they served. Not only will you bring added light into their lives but, in so doing, you will find your service enriched and your joy in service increased.