They are the elite.
They are the unsung.
They are sometimes the unknown.
They are our veterans, and assuredly a diverse group they are.
Most Cleveland and Bradley County residents know a veteran. Within our community, we have some 8,000 men and women who have served their country in times of war and times of peace, and who have stood among the gallant during days of fear and nights of uncertainty.
Our veterans are many. Our veterans are our strength. Our veterans are ...
Men and women.
Rich and poor.
Black, white, red and brown.
Educated and illiterate.
Fathers and sons.
Mothers and daughters.
Native born and born afar.
Reared by family and raised as orphan.
They are among the blessed who have loved.
They are among the forlorn who have lost.
All have served. All have fought or have prepared to fight. All have worn uniforms in defense of the American way of life — one anchored in freedom, in choice and in a fundamental belief that equality among our brethren is given by God and protected by courage.
Today is Veterans Day.
It comes once each year, and always on Nov. 11. Across our native American soil, many communities are observing this precious moment, this time of deep emotion and genuine gratitude.
Today, our own Cleveland and Bradley County hometown proudly counts itself among the many that still honor our soldiers of past and present. We do it as one. We do it in shared cause and with single heart. It is required of no one. Yet it is a moral mandate among those who understand the message of freedom.
Today’s ceremony in downtown Cleveland at the Bradley County Courthouse Plaza began at 11 a.m. We hope the crowd rivaled the size of a giant army.
It is heartbreaking to know that in some communities Veterans Day and Memorial Day no longer hold the same meaning as in their yesteryears. But not here. In Cleveland and Bradley County, residents continue to hold in highest esteem those who wear, and those who have worn, the uniform of the U.S. serviceman and woman.
Many have given voice to the reason for observing Veterans Day. One unknown author said simply, “Freedom is never free.”
American poet Maya Angelou eloquently reminds us of the evolution of the American military. She points out, “How important it is for us to recognize our heroes and she-roes!”
U.S. President John F. Kennedy stirred hearts when he called upon America to embrace its words of appreciation to our veterans. The American leader urged, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Perhaps the most endearing words have come from the hearts of Eve Merriam and Jose Narosky. The former tells us, “I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, ‘Mother, what was war?’” And the latter offers, as we quoted in Sunday’s editorial, “In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.”
Both messages run deep in the hearts of those who understand the realities of military confrontation and the depth of its costs.
But people are people. And nations are nations. Each holds true to its ideals. All cling to their own convictions. And both are influenced by need, whether real or imagined.
It is why war comes. To observe it is one’s choosing. To seek peace is one’s mandate.
In either case, the uniformed soldier is the one held most accountable.
It is why we observe Veterans Day, not because of the uniform but because of the heart beneath.