Many attend community ceremonies acknowledging the role of our soldiers in preserving the American way of life and protecting our fundamental ideals, the most significant of which is freedom.
An untold number of families have members of the military within their immediate and extended throng of loved ones, whether local, in some distant corner of our nation or on the other side of the world.
It is the truly blessed families who still have a veteran from a past war within their households — whether the man or woman in uniform is a survivor of the World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq eras.
Some organizations, schools and churches are already observing veterans ceremonies in tribute to individuals within their own congregations and membership rolls. Some did it Friday. Some are doing it today. But Veterans Day itself comes Monday, a time when our hometown community comes together as one in tribute to our men and women in uniform, past and present.
The annual Veterans Day Ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. in beautiful downtown Cleveland on the Bradley County Courthouse Plaza. Other observances might also take place over the course of the day. Whenever, wherever and under whatever circumstances they are held, we urge full participation.
It is important and this is why. Our nation and our community owe a deepening debt of gratitude to those who wear the American uniform and who apologize to no one for their love of country and their belief in the message behind the red, white and blue of the U.S. flag.
As we have pointed out in years past, in some communities Veterans Day — and even Memorial Day — are given little recognition other than serving as the third day of a three-day weekend.
Not only is this disconcerting, it is disrespectful to those who have safeguarded the many freedoms we hold so dear in today’s troubled world.
Let none make this mistake. Veterans Day and Memorial Day observations are not celebrations of war. They are not a sand-in-the-line plea for additional military confrontation. No one wants war, nor should they. A uniformed soldier would be among the first to agree.
Wars are won and wars are lost.
But what of the soldiers who must fight them? Even in their nation’s victory, few soldiers win. These courageous warriors must spend the rest of their lives haunted by the memories of combat, the uncertainties of death and the stark reality that life for them has changed forever. In the knowing words of Argentine writer Jose Narosky, who we have quoted in previous commentaries, “In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.”
In keeping with this message, we offer a reminder to all — especially to those who have surviving veterans within their families, those who work with a veteran or those who call a veteran friend.
To honor their sacrifice is an admirable act and one that is well-deserved. But deepen those tributes. Get to know the veteran and to understand his ways or her values.
Don’t just glance at a veteran during a ceremony; look into the eyes.
Don’t just shake the hand of a veteran; tighten the grip and hold the exchange.
Don’t just slap the veteran on the back; embrace the warrior and feel the warmth.
Don’t just “congratulate” the veteran on this special day; offer a “God Bless You” and say it with feeling.
Don’t just wave at a veteran across the way; seek him out in the crowd or find her after the ceremony and say, “Let me buy you a cup of coffee. I just want to talk.”
Don’t assume a veteran has little to say; engage his expression and read her mannerisms, then interpret with reassuring kindness and unconditional love.
Veterans Day is, and should always be, a venue for ceremony.
But most importantly, it is a time for sharing.
We urge all to share on Monday.