Sunday, November 08, 2015
Thank a Veteran Every Day
By JAMES YERMAS
American Legion Department of New York
Every day should be Veterans Day, not just the annual Nov. 11th observance.
The debt America and Americans owe to veterans cannot be satisfied by an annual expression of gratitude and remembrance.
I was part of the Vietnam era of veterans who did not get a celebratory welcome home. Many of us were even spat upon. So it’s heartening to see the current expressions of appreciation for our military men and women and our veterans.
So please, thank a vet. Often. Not just on Veterans Day. We’re not averse to hugs, either.
Let me tell you why.
Military veterans are trained to put themselves in harm’s way for their country and for the folks back home – to run toward the gunfire, not away from it. Whether it’s combat or intense field training, veterans have distinct memories of ill lodging, discomfort, arbitrary rule and separation, and all kinds of adversity. It’s part and parcel of military life.
It’s why we hold veterans in such high esteem.
Take a look at the example of two American veterans and their longtime friend who bravely stopped a terrorist attack aboard a train bound for Paris this summer. Airman First Class Spencer Stone, Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler could have run from the danger when a heavily armed gunman boarded the train. Instead, Specialist Skarlatos said, “Let’s go,” as the men ran toward the terrorist.
Even after enduring serious stab wounds that were inflicted as he disarmed the gunman, Airman Stone administered life-saving first aid to a passenger that was shot.
The terrorist was carrying 270 rounds of ammunition. But because of the actions of these three young Americans, the death toll aboard the train was zero.
President Obama praised the men as the “very best of America.” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter called the incident, “an amazing story, right out of a movie.”
The American Legion believes it is not surprising. While we take nothing away from the heroic actions of Spencer, Alek and Anthony, America’s military men and women risk life and limb every day so that we can be free.
From Bunker Hill to Baghdad, there has always been a select group of Americans willing to fight and possibly die for a cause greater than their self-preservation.
And while we set aside November 11th as a special day to honor and remember our veterans, we should continuously endeavor to serve our veterans as well as they have served their nation.
And just as importantly, we must honor all of their families and not just with Blue and Gold Star Banners, but with compassionate hearts. Post Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury and life-altering war wounds not only affect the veteran, but also take an enormous toll on the family.
Sometimes all that is needed is a simple “thank you.”