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 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, and always on Nov. 11. Across our native American soil, many communities will observe this precious moment today. Others will host emotional ceremonies on Monday.
Our own Cleveland and Bradley County hometown again will proudly honor our soldiers of past and present at the annual Veterans Day Ceremony where a “Veteran of the Year” will be named amid a large crowd that will gather in downtown Cleveland at the Bradley County Courthouse Plaza. In keeping with the symbolism of the observance, Monday’s assembly will get under way at 11 a.m.
We urge all to attend.
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 regard 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, “In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.”
Both messages run deep in the hearts of those who understand the realities of military confrontation.
But people are people. And nations are nations. Each holds true to its own convictions. All 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.