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Monday, September 20, 2021

Column: Honoring those who serve

Veterans Day only appears to have a special meaning this year, but it has a special meaning every year. The atrocity that occurred at Fort Hood last week, and the murders that took place there will be rightly first on the minds of Americans honoring this day. What must not be lost though, is our respect of all who have served this country in the armed services. Veteran’s Day has a special meaning every year.

The attack on Fort Hood is so painful because the horrors of war occurred in our “own back yard,” so to speak. Thirteen soldiers were senselessly shot down and dozens others injured in a place that would normally be considered safe. They were killed not by an enemy on the battlefield, but by one of their own on American soil. I cannot imagine the sense of betrayal and grief that the soldiers on that base and the families of the victims must feel.

This horrible event might be what is on everyone’s mind, but let’s not forget why we set aside this day for veterans.

Nov. 11 marks the day that World War I officially ended. While originally intended to honor World War I veterans, Veterans Day is now dedicated to all veterans. Many people view this holiday as simply another day off of school or work, but it should not be treated so trivially.

Think about the men and women who are now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. For them there is no day off, no day to go to the movies and no day to visit family and friends. Most of them will serve through the rest of the holidays as well. The burden of two wars has been placed almost entirely on them and their families.

The general population is so far removed from war that we often forget that it’s happening at all. Sure, we hear stories on the news about events that have taken place in those wars or about those who have been injured and killed. But rarely are we personally affected by what takes place there.

Why is it so important to care about and honor veterans? It’s important because without their contributions, the horrors of the world would expand and envelop the good people whom they protect. We all owe a great and un-payable debt to those who have served and sacrificed for us.

Forgetting about the incredible sacrifices made by the few on our behalf is inexcusable. All too often we only glorify the celebrities and athletes who entertain us. This is done while forgetting about the truly heroic people whose names you will never know and whose deeds are so rarely reported.

The few who serve protect not only our lives but our way of life. Here in America we have much, but that means we also have much to lose.

The soldiers who fight in our military do not fight for politicians or the United States government; they fight for us. They swear their allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and to the American people. That is why we must support them whether we agree with our government’s political decisions or not. We must show them the same loyalty that they have shown us.

It is obvious to me that there is no way of repaying those who have served in war and who will serve us in the future. What we should do is ensure that they are taken care of and that we always remain grateful to them. You can do this by speaking to a soldier, donating to a charity or visiting a war memorial. There are many ways to honor veterans and I think that they would at least like to know that they are appreciated.

So for all those who have served or will serve this nation this day remains special. The actions of one terrible person who betrayed and murdered them must not overshadow why we do celebrate Veterans Day.

JARRETT STEPMAN gives thanks for all of those who have served this country. You can send him your comments at jstepman@ucdavis.edu.

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