Veterans Day always falls on November 11 of each year. This date was chosen to commemorate the anniversary of the end of World War 1, which occured at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Much of the world, especially Europe, recognized this date as Armistice Day.
They Showed Up
The veterans of the Revolutionary War showed up with flintlock hunting rifles. The day after Pearl Harbor, brave citizens showed up to wait in long lines at recruiting stations for World War II. The survivors of Korea will always be thankful for tootsie rolls during the freezing Chosin Reservoir campaign. In the heat of Southeast Asia they showed up in jungle boots on helicopters to march through elephant grass, rice paddies and triple canopy jungles to serve. And recently we have troops showing up in desert sands, sterile plains and rugged mountain ranges to defend our nation against terrorists that threaten the comfort and security of millions of other cultures whose languages most of us can't understand. For all too many of these men and women they showed up, swore an oath and essentially signed their own death certificate.
Chaplain Bill Karabinos, 11th Armored Cavalry in Vietnam and Cambodia shares this about those who showed up during his service:
"In Okinawa alone, it was common place that a Marine Corps company landed with a complement of 235 officers and men, were reinforced over a three-month period with 250 replacements, only to come back with less than 50 survivors. Same for Iwo Jima, Peleliu, Saipan and Guadalcanal."
Families Serve Too
To all the families who show up every day to support the service of their loved ones, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Especially those Gold Star families whose loved ones didn't come home.
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice on the altar of freedom.
Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
Over our history, these men and women have been deployed far from home. So for me, "thank you for your service" seems to come up short.
"Welcome home" seems more appropriate.