Take time to honor all military veterans
Nearly 100 years ago, a momentous event took place in a land area far from America's shores. The guns of a long and costly war were at last silenced, and for the first time in four years, all was truly quiet on the western front. The Great War to Save Democracy, the War to End All Wars, was over. The year was 1918.
Before the guns stopped, 116,000 Americans died. But they were not forgotten. One year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the date to honor them. The annual occasion was to be called Armistice Day.
Since then, both the scope and the name of the holiday have changed. Originally intended to recognize just those who died in World War I, today it honors all American veterans, both living and dead, for every war and time period. We now know this holiday as Veterans Day.
On this day, it is well for us to step back to reflect on and honor the ideals our servicemen and women fought to protect, but which we as a society sometimes take for granted.
For Americans, the freedoms we enjoy are a way of life. We inherit these blessings from two legacies of our Founding Fathers: the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.
But our Founding Fathers had a vision for our nation that encompassed more than just the rights of each individual. Their vision encompassed social equality, responsibility and a unified nation.
Millions of our countrymen have unselfishly fought and died over the years to protect the freedoms, rights and beliefs for which our nation stands. Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, almost 3 million American men and women have answered the call to arms — to serve their nation and do their jobs.
Every servicemember is a hero who deserves respect and gratitude every single day of the year, not just on patriotic holidays. When our sons and daughters volunteered for duty and put on that uniform — in other words, when they determined to make a sacrifice for the American family — they became the sons and daughters of all Americans.
Our veterans have inspiring stories to tell. In World War II, they defeated a fascist dictatorship in Germany responsible for the death of millions. Over the vast expanse of the Pacific, our veterans engaged in deadly jungle warfare and fought naval engagements that defeated Japan, another military dictatorship. In Korea and again in Vietnam they fought to halt the spread of communism. Today, our forces are engaged in the deserts of Iraq and the rugged mountains of Afghanistan.
What is a simple definition of the meaning of Veterans Day 2012? To me, it comes down to one straightforward sentence — freedom is not free.
The primary mission of U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground is to ensure that the weapons and munitions issued to our combat forces operate precisely as they're supposed to — all the time, without fail. The Yuma Proving Ground workforce — your friends and neighbors — work each day to maintain this trust and make a vital contribution to our national defense. As the Army's busiest test center, the proving ground salutes all the veterans, of all military services, in Yuma County. We hope to see you at the Veterans Day parades taking place in Wellton on Nov. 11 and Yuma on Nov. 12.
Chuck Wullenjohn is the public affairs officer for Yuma Proving Ground. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.