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, times of peace and who have stood among the gallant during periods of fear and uncertainty.
Our veterans are many. Our veterans are our strength. Our veterans are ...
Men and women.
Rich and poor.
Black and white.
Educated and illiterate.
Fathers and sons.
Mothers and daughters.
Native born and born as migrant.
Reared by family and raised as orphan.
Those who have loved.
Others 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, choice and a fundamental belief that equality among our brethren is God-given and soldier-protected.
Today is Veterans Day.
It comes once each year — Nov. 11 — and is not moved from its rightful position on the calendar for the convenience of three-day weekends and long vacations. This was made the case on Sept. 20, 1975, when President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 returning the annual observance to its original date, beginning in 1978.
It was a worthy and commendable action.
Not all holidays should be tied to a weekend, especially those with the significance of human life and the accompanying loss of life to uniformed American men and women who have accepted a higher calling — the oath to defend their land, the United States of America and the millions who call this nation their home.
Their sacrifice — whether in the past, present or future — should be taken seriously by all. The day it is not is the day America should re-evaluate her own foundation and her conviction to endearing standards like freedom, choice and any soulful principle aimed at growing the open mind, the giving heart and the unchained spirit.
Others have voiced themselves eloquently on the meaning of Veterans Day and why it should be guarded as a national time of prayer, hope and gratitude. We bow to their wisdom on this sacred day of recognition.
One unknown author spoke to the grassroots message of Veterans Day by offering, “Freedom is never free.”
American poet Maya Angelou said the uniformed soldier and the American veteran have evolved. She pointed out, “How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate 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.”
We forever will hold dear to two comments in particular. One is by Eve Merriam who voiced, “I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, ‘Mother, what was war?’” And Jose Narosky spoke to an untold truth, “In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.”
To observe war 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 on this day we salute these sons and daughters of America, not because of the uniform but because of the heart beneath.
We honor them all on this Veterans Day, and on any day whether by signed proclamation or unseen circumstance.