The U.S. is home to 21.8 million military veterans.
These are men and women who once served in combat, war or during peacetime in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force or Coast Guard.
They are found in every state of the nation and live among us as family, friends, neighbors, employers and employees.
Today is Veterans Day; a day specifically devoted to the men and women who once wore a military uniform.
Veterans Day remains a vital, important part of our nation’s history. The day ensures the selfless sacrifices of America’s veterans–both living and dead–are honored and forever remembered.
The history of Veterans Day dates back to Nov. 11, 1919 and the commemoration of Armistice Day. Congress later passed a resolution in 1926 creating an annual observance and in 1938, Nov. 11 became a national holiday. On Oct. 8, 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the Veterans Day Proclamation.
“Now, therefore, I, Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States of America, do hereby call upon all of our citizens to observe Thursday, Nov. 11, 1954, as Veterans Day. On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting and enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain. I also direct the appropriate officials of the government to arrange for the display of the flag of the United States on all public buildings on Veterans Day,” the proclamation reads.
There is little doubt the 2.5 million men and women currently serving in the military will continue to be called upon to protect the nation’s freedoms, as well as those of our allies, overseas. The ever changing and unstable dynamics of international politics guarantees this.
Today’s current service members will eventually become tomorrow’s veterans who deserve our thanks, recognition and care.
As American citizens whose rights have been defended and protected by those in military uniform, we must strive to make sure no veteran is left behind.
That means making every effort to move the nation’s homeless veterans from the streets and into housing and solid, living wage jobs. It means putting pressure on the government and the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure every qualified veteran receives quality health care. Also, it means making sure the government repairs the still-broken VA disability system that often leaves veterans waiting months, if not years, before receiving disability payments.
There is absolutely no reason and excuse why any military veteran should be without housing and a job. It’s our duty and responsibility to make sure they are cared for and respected upon their return home.
Regardless of where you stand on war and peace, each veteran deserves a thank you on Veterans Day.
Honoring the nation’s men and women who once served is simple. Often veterans merely want a “thank you” or a handshake. You can also show your gratitude and respect by displaying the American flag.
If you know or see a veteran today, stop and take a few minutes to express your gratitude.
To area veterans, I say thank you for your service and wish you all a great day.
Bethlehem resident Mark Reccek began reporting in 2010. He is currently a distressed debt reporter for Prospect News, an online publisher of stock market and financial news. He also serves as a web reporter for WFMZ and the Lehigh Valley Press weekly newspapers. A Lehigh Valley native, Mark graduated from Lehigh University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science. He also holds a law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, having served active duty from 1996-2000.