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Celebrate Veterans Day by honoring those who served

The date of Veterans Day comes out of the depths of a devastating World War. On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month in 1918, an armistice was signed to end the so-called “war to end all wars” – World War I. In 2016, the date will be observed on Friday, November 11.

World War I, however, did not “end all wars.”  Today, members of the United States military are serving throughout the world, many in combat situations in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. On Thursday, as it does every year, the Marine Corps celebrates its birthday.  November 10, 1775, was the day that the Continental Marines, later renamed the United States Marine Corps, was established.

    How do we honor the many men and women who have served their country in military service? 

Here are five suggestions:

• Attend a Veteran’s Day event.

• Ask a veteran about their time in the military, and really listen to the answer.

• Hang a flag in your yard.

• Ask an aging veteran to share with you the song that most takes them back.

• Visit the gravesite of a veteran.

The Town of Jonesborough hosted a musical tribune to veterans at the Historic Visitors Center on Sunday. (See photos on page 8B.) The event was just one of a list of 45 items that the United States Department of Veterans Affairs suggests can be done to honor a veteran.  Most of them can also take place when it’s not Veterans Day.  They include taking a veteran out to dinner; writing to someone in the military; making sure that the children and grandchildren in your family know who in their family served their country; donating time, money or supplies to local Veterans Day drives; shaking hands and thanking a veteran; or taking a moment to say a silent prayer for those who are serving.

Speaking of prayer, it was Paul writing to the Ephesians (6:10-17) who used the image of a Roman soldier dressed in armor as a visual example of the spiritual strength it takes to combat evil in the world. He describes the “Armor of God” in passages in the Bible that include the following: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

Evil confronts our country in many forms today.  As of January 31 of this year, there were close to 1.4 million people serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, according to the latest numbers from the Defense Manpower Data Center, a body of the Department of Defense. That means that 0.4 percent of the American population is active military personnel confronting that evil in every corner of the world. The Veterans Administration estimates there were 22 million military veterans in the U.S. population in 2014, the latest statistics available.  If you add their figures on veterans to the active personnel numbers mentioned above, 7.3 percent of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives. By 2043, the VA calculates (assuming no future conflicts) the number of living veterans will steadily decline to 14.5 million.

About 200,000 current military personnel are women. It is estimated 1.4 percent of all female Americans have ever served in the armed services, compared to 13.4 percent of all male Americans.

Breaking down statistics by the specific branch of service indicates that 3.1 percent of all living Americans have served in the Army, 1.7 percent in the Navy, 1.4 percent in the Air Force and 0.8 percent in the Marines, while the remaining 0.5 percent have served in either non-defense or reserve roles.

The statistics don’t recount the stories of the sacrifices of the few who have kept the vast majority of their fellow citizens safe and free. As a result of what they have accomplished, it’s important to remember that sacrifice. When you hear about job fairs to provide opportunities for returning veterans, remember, it’s the right thing to do.  When you hear about programs or special offers designed for veterans, remember it’s helping those who have given so much for us.

Our veterans are all heroes.  A grateful nation needs to make it clear we will never forget them and what they did for their country.