A salute to those who served

The fighting ceased with an armistice in effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The Treaty of Versailles would be signed on June 28 of 1919, and World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended then.

But with the armistice, it was said that “the war to end all wars” was over.

What tragic irony we see in that phrase today, after another World War, Korea, Vietnam and the ensuing confrontations that have taken the lives of so many Americans. Today, young men and women serve in uniform the world over, with courage, driven by duty, accepting of the sacrifice military service requires of them and their families.

This day, Veterans Day, born in the aftermath of that war that did not end all wars, honors them all, and Americans must pause and reflect on what that service means, rally to support the families who today struggle to stay together and take care of the children of military service people, salute those who died in service and, yes, vow that the ones who served will be supported here at home.

Topic A these days, so far as that support goes, has to do with the efforts to fix a VA health system that fell woefully and outrageously behind. Thankfully, both Congress and President Obama, so rarely together in their goals these days, share one that the VA must be saved and strengthened and men and women faithfully served.

Yes, that’s right. On this Veterans Day, we celebrate and bow to the memories of those who did their part for their country, and we say to them now: We shall do our part.

President Woodrow Wilson named Nov. 11 as the first Armistice Day a year after the armistice went into effect. He said at the time that the day would honor those who died in service but also would express gratitude for victory.

The need for Veterans Day was never in doubt, but the date of its celebration changed through the years, and several presidents offered resolutions of their own recognizing it. Finally, it was decided that the day should not be marked as some federal holidays are on a Monday, but that it was so important that it should be celebrated on Nov. 11, no matter where that day fell in the course of the week. President Gerald Ford was the chief executive who signed that into effect.

That’s as it should be. And it underlines the historic significance of the day as well as the celebratory one.

Here is a day that all Americans can and must embrace. Today, many thousands of Americans in uniform face the same threats, the same imminent dangers, that those in the World Wars faced. They are far from home, where they must protect their own safety, those of their fellow troops and those of the civilians they’re often charged with keeping from harm.

And at home, their families struggle financially and emotionally with the stress of having a mother or father in harm’s way far from home. Military service is demanding in so many ways, and it is good to see the VA intending to put more resources into mental health care to help service members and their families cope.

Those in uniform protect our very freedoms, all those laid out by the Founding Fathers and their successors in the Bill of Rights and the Amendments to the Constitution.

We owe respect to them and to our country. God blesses America in many ways, but one way, one profound way, is with the voluntary and courageous service of those veterans to whom we now pay tribute.