Make sure our children understand why our veterans are also our heroes. And help the children learn to value the nation and the ideals that so many have given their lives to protect. Generations of Heroes

In every generation, America has been graced with heroes who have gone to war to protect our freedom and defend our ideals. These heroes have worn all colors of uniforms — Army green, Marine Corps khaki, Air Force and Navy blue. But no matter the color of their uniform or the manner of their service, they’ve always been there, under the Stars and Stripes, fighting America’s battles.

On Veterans Day, we celebrate our generations of military heroes.

In a perfect world, Veterans Day would be one of our most important holidays, and we would use it to build and expand a profound understanding of what our heroes have done for us and our nation while expressing our infinite gratitude for their sacrifice.

Make no mistake. They all sacrificed. Whether it was extended separation from loved ones and home or surviving combat or surrendering their very lives, they all gave of themselves for the rest of us.

Renowned war correspondent Joe Galloway — who has spent more time in combat than most generals — captures our heroes’ sacrifice in his description of the troops who survived a two-day battle in the Ia Drang Valley of Vietnam in 1965. "Our young-old faces, chiseled and gaunt from the fever and the heat and the sleepless nights, now stare back at us, lost and damned strangers, frozen in yellowing snapshots packed away in cardboard boxes with medals and ribbons."

Yet sadly, in some ways, Veterans Day has become a second-rate holiday. Most of us don’t have the occasion thrust under our noses by virtue of a day off. And, even if we did, taking the time to remember and honor our veterans isn’t the way most of us would choose to spend our leisure time. That’s unfortunate, and we need to do better.

How can we honor our generations of heroes? First, we can listen, and we can learn. Seek out a veteran. Take time. Sit still. Open your ears, your heart and your mind. Say, "thank you."

If you can’t find a veteran, open a book. Though you can’t succeed, do your best to understand. Let their experiences seep into you. Even a small step toward understanding will make it impossible to discount their sacrifice or forget what they have done.

Make sure our children understand why our veterans are also our heroes. And help the children learn to value the nation and the ideals that so many have given their lives to protect.

Historian Stephen Ambrose captured all of this in his account of World War II combat in Western Europe. "At the core, the American citizen soldiers knew the difference between right and wrong, and they didn’t want to live in a world in which wrong prevailed. So they fought, and won, and we all of us, living and yet to be born, must be forever profoundly grateful."

Now more than ever, at a time when our nation is locked in a new battle between right and wrong, between freedom and terror, it is incumbent on those of us who have not marched into battle to do our part — to celebrate our heroes, and the generations of heroes that have come before.

Veterans Day provides the perfect opportunity.


November 11, 2004
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