It was 100 years ago today, when the U.S. and its allies signed an armistice with Germany bringing World War I to a close. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month has been set aside as the time we honor our veterans.
At first, it was called Armistice Day. The war it brought to an end was not then known as World War I. Some called it The Great War, the war to end all wars. No one could imagine that 23 years later, the world would once again be at war.
School students today know the events of Sept. 11, 2001, only from a historical prospective. They were not born when terrorists attacked our country.
When it comes to veterans, all of our World War I veterans have died. There are only 500,000 World War II veterans still living and most of them are in their 90s.
Few of us remember having ration books to buy things like sugar, meat or cooking oil. Gasoline and tires were also rationed. Some locations had to conduct regular air raid drills. Mothers had banners with stars to represent their sons serving in the war. Blue was for those on active duty, silver for those who had been injured and gold for those who were killed.
There were 320,000 Georgians who served in uniform during World War II. There were those who worked in civilian jobs, like the Bell bomber plant in Marietta.
Our largest group of living veterans is our Vietnam-era veterans. We had 228,000 Georgians who served in Vietnam and we have nearly 250,000 Vietnam veterans living in our state.
We watched the war in Southeast Asia each night on the evening news. Also on the news were protests on college campuses and other locations in the U.S. against the war. Vietnam veterans came home and were insulted and spat upon by those who opposed the U.S. involvement.
Today is the day that we should offer our thanks to all who have worn the uniform of our country. We tend to confuse the observances of Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is to honor our wartime dead. Veterans Day is to say we celebrate those who have served, particularly those who are living.
We have other veterans who also served with honor and distinction in the Gulf War and the War on Terror.
In my travels, I often see those in uniform in the airport. When possible, I thank them for their service. I think about where they might be going and what unknown threats they might face. I think about their families at home, who await word of their safety.
What I find most interesting is the number of young people leaving high school or college and enlisting in the military. We have many bright and dedicated young people who are now training in fields that didn’t exist a few years ago, such as cyber terrorism.
To all who have served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard we say thank you. Your willingness to leave home and family and serve our nation is a sign of devotion that is worthy of admiration.
Take a moment today and say thank you to a veteran. You’ll be glad you did.