“Thank you for your service” is a phrase veterans appreciate on Veterans Day – or any other day of the year for that matter.
We hope it is said with some deep thought and heart-felt meaning and never is delivered with the hollowness of a cliché such as “Have a good one” or “How’s it goin’?”
At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month this year – 11 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 11 – people around the world will commemorate the “war to end all wars” and the beginning of the armistice signed that morning in the Forest of Compiégne, France.
World War I ended with more than 9 million soldiers dead and 21 million more wounded, and that doesn’t include the almost 10 million civilians killed as the result of that war. Besides those with visible wounds, soldiers returned home with shell shock. We call that post traumatic stress syndrome today.
Tragically, that war didn’t end all wars. America has sent its sailors, airmen, soldiers and Marines to World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan, the Iraq War and many more conflicts since and between.
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America’s endless war in Afghanistan began Oct. 7, 2001 with a bombing campaign and 12 days later with an invasion of ground forces. Wikipedia lists Army Sgt. First Class Nathan Ross Chapman, the son of an Air Force veteran, as the first U.S. combat casualty on Jan. 4, 2002, but Army Rangers Kristofer Stonesifer and John Edmunds were killed in action on Oct. 19, 2001 in Pakistan in the lead-up to the invasion.
Last Saturday, Maj. Brent Taylor, 39, the mayor of North Ogden, Utah, was shot and killed in Kabul, Afghanistan while serving with the Army National Guard, the latest American victim of that war. More than 2,300 U.S. service members, many from Mississippi, have been killed in Afghanistan in the years between.
From World War I to present, more than 626,000 U.S. service members have been killed in wars and armed conflicts, according to statista.com. More than 1.1 million U.S. service members have been wounded in that time period.
Multiply those numbers by spouses, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends and the lives changed forever are countless.
Besides those deaths and physical injuries, there are the hidden wounds. An estimated 20 veterans per day take their own lives. The Department of Veterans Affairs say that statistic includes active duty, National Guard and Reserves.
Along with the risk of death and injury, there are missed holidays, births and family milestones, fractured relationships and the temptation to self-medicate. The sacrifices are enormous.
East Mississippi is well aware of veterans’ issues and the sacrifices made by service members and their families.
There are 5,610 veterans in Lauderdale County, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics. There’s another 4,396 veterans in Clarke, Kemper, Neshoba and Newton counties and 180,251 total inside Mississippi, according to the Census.
There are 2,800 military and civilian employees at Naval Air Station Meridian. Around 1,300, four hundred full-time, work at the city’s Air National Guard and Army National Guard bases.
Many events have saluted veterans this week and more events are planned. Opportunities on Sunday include a 10:30 a.m. Veterans Day Ceremony at the Doughboy Monument, 23rd Avenue and 6th Street. in Meridian; an 11 a.m. Veterans Day Ceremony in Newton at the lot between 3rd Street and 4th Street; and a 3 p.m. Veterans Day Parade in downtown Meridian that begins at 9th Street and 25th Avenue.
Retailers, restaurants and other venues are offering discounted meals, merchandise and admission. All efforts to show appreciation are thoughtful gestures.
Rather than relying on a well-warn cliché, however, we ask you think deeply about the meaning before giving your thanks – and think even deeper before asking for any action by those currently serving.
To our veterans and their families, who intimately know their sacrifice, thank you for your service.