With the U.S. military engaged in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this scene has become more and more common in airports over the past few years. Soldiers dressed in fatigues with gear slung over their shoulders disembark from planes. Slowly, one clap then another is heard. It builds to thunderous applause. Onlookers stand, some pat a soldier on the back. Many yell "thank you for your service."
Seeing those flesh-and-blood people makes real the fact that thousands of men and women are risking their lives to protect the rest of us and defend the democracy we hold dear. A cheer, a pat, a thank you is small compensation for their sacrifices. But today, at least, it's something all of us should offer.
Today is Veterans Day, the day officially set aside to thank and honor those who served in the military - in wartime and during peace. The day is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served - not just those who died (Memorial Day was established for that ) - have sacrificed and done their duty.
The history of Veterans Day harkens back to the end of hostilities in World War I. At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, fighting halted while diplomats bickered over how to formally end The War to End All Wars.
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