We are hopefully in the final phase of seeing the end of a long cycle of foreign conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan which saw a large-scale deployment of U.S. military forces to those troubled lands. By this time next year, the number of troops stationed in Afghanistan should be close to zero. What happens after that is anyone's guess - recent instability in Iraq is not a confidence-builder that those nations are ready to take on the burden of insuring their own security. Be that as it may, the ordinary soldier, sailor, Marine or air force member did their best to give them a chance, and we should honor that sacrifice.
Many of these modern day veterans are coming home with some severe issues that may require long-term attention, wounds that are as much psychological as physical. There should be no question that they deserve whatever support a grateful nation can give.
And we also need to remember the sacrifices born by veterans of earlier conflicts such as the Gulf War of 1991, Vietnam, Korea, World War II and earlier. Many others gave their all in smaller conflicts that flashed across the headlines for a time, then to be largely forgotten - we're thinking back to Somalia in 1993 and Lebanon in 1983 and Granada before that, for example.
Veterans Day has its origins in the armistice of World War I which formally ended hostilities in that horrific conflict, the most destructive of its kind up until 1918. That's why it was originally known as "Armistice Day" and is observed on Nov. 11. It was made a legal holiday in 1938. In 1954, an act of Congress changed the name to Veterans Day to honor veterans of all wars.
We always hope that there will be no need for further sacrifices in the defense of freedom, but history suggests otherwise. Meanwhile, even if you can't make it to one of the local ceremonies that will take place sometime around 11 a.m. Monday - when the World War I armistice went into effect - we take a moment to reflect and be grateful.
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