Veterans have earned more than a holiday

By Dan Streib

The year was 1918. The world’s first episode of modern warfare had been brutal and tragic. With awe-inspiring and fear-inducing new weapons that Europe’s finest generals had no experience with, the rules of war were changed – and unfortunately many brave soldiers died in this transitional period. The Great War had initially begun as a conflict brought about by the clash of misconceived European alliances. Yet, due to aggressive actions by the German aristocracy and the American fear of having a kaiser in control of all Europe, the United States had decided to come to the aid of its democratic British and French allies four years earlier.

Yet in 1918, there was potential for an end. Germany was losing and the United States was weary of so much fighting on foreign soil. If Germany was willing to allow the United States to complete its mission to make the world safe for democracy that year rather than the next, America would agree to an armistice. On the 11th day of the 11th hour of the 11th month, armed hostilities ceased in what was supposed to be the war to end all wars. That conflict was World War I.

After the sort of brutality the U.S. soldiers had to endure while fighting for its idealistic principles was seen, America had to recognize this sacrifice. Armistice Day was created on May 13, 1938 to serve this purpose. Yet, two wars followed, one worldwide and one in Korea.

Surprisingly enough, World War I had not made it so America would never have to militarily intervene in the world again.

By acting as a showcase of America’s superpower status, it gave the United States a certain responsibility in the world. Its size also made its involvement in international affairs a strategic necessity. Thus, when Germany was assailing Britain again, we gave supplies to the British again. And certainly, if we were willing to challenge Hitler’s Third Reich from behind the scenes, it only made sense for us to at least threaten an embargo of some sort when Japan was acting aggressively in southeast Asia.

The rest is history. Japan did not back down, but attacked us instead, and Germany too made an immediate declaration of war. After many years and many lives, America toppled the axis powers only to be faced with a new challenge in a rising Soviet Russia. America decided upon containment this time.

After Korea, the United States decided to make Armistice Day honor all veterans of all wars, and thus we have the holiday – Veterans Day – that will be observed this Sunday.

Many wars, large and small, chosen and not chosen, have been thrust upon our armed forces since the day of the armistice was given to all veterans.

Many patriotic Americans show their pride in their country everyday and do not hesitate to celebrate those who fought in our wars over the ages on Nov. 11. Others though, are not as patriotic – be this due to disagreement, misunderstanding, or apathy. And that’s OK. This is not the Orwellian year of 1984. Our country allows people to be free to think whatever they want.

Yet, those who find themselves questioning those who proudly wave their American flag should bear the following in mind. Those who serve in these conflicts, those who literally give their blood, toil and tears, do so for two reasons: out of necessity or out of high ideals. When their country makes them serve in war, they serve. When their country merely asks them to serve in war, many serve. Why? It would be useful to ask these noble veterans and find out. But it is certain that many do so because, one way or another, they love their country.

Because of this, it is important to stop on this Nov. 11 and think about your country and its wars. Think about whether or not you like this country.

To do that, you must think of one thing and one thing only: its ideals. Think about the Declaration of Independence and its beautiful sentiment that all men are created equal and that they deserve to engage in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Think about that idea. And enjoy it. Because that is what this country – and thus our veterans – are all about. Whether they fought in Europe, Korea, Vietnam or currently fight in Afghanistan or Iraq, they are willing to give and are giving the most noble sacrifice for our ideals.

This weekend I’ll be seeing my grandfather – himself a World War II veteran. I know I’ll be sure to thank him for what he has witnessed and gave to our country by virtue of his service in that war.

If you see someone you know who’s a veteran, thank them.

And if you don’t know a veteran, spare them a thought by thinking about their sacrifice. And also, do them and our nation a favor by thinking about our ideals.