Of the nearly 325 million people who live in the United States, 1.3 million men and women serve on active duty in the US Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard, according to the US Department of Defense, with nearly another one million serving in the armed forces reserves. It is a small portion of the population, but one with outsized responsibility for securing our country and its citizens.
Those who enlist in any of the branches commit to defending the Constitution, obeying the President of the United States and the orders of officers so far as those orders adhere to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It is an oath taken seriously and because it is, we can be confident that the two million-plus men and women in service to the country will rise to any occasion that threatens us, or disasters that demand service before personal needs. These men and women will put themselves in harm’s way for the benefit of the country that they serve.
More than one million Americans have died in wars fought by the United States, with most of those deaths occurring during the Civil War (nearly 500,000) and World War II (more than 400,000). We honor those who have put their lives on the line in the name of liberty on Veterans Day.
Many ceremonies in towns across the state — including at the VFW Post 308 in Newtown — and across the nation are scheduled at 11 am, on this 11th day, of the 11th month, commemorating the moment that ended the “war to end all wars,” The Great War, in 1918.
In Newtown, our schools have opted to remain in session on November 11, realizing that educational programs are of more value than a day to sleep in and play games at home. The breakfasts and ceremonies in which students and educators take part have become Veterans Day traditions relished by all.
However, a great number of veterans of modern wars and 9/11, according to a 2014 survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Washington Post, face economic hardships, mental and physical health challenges, and experience difficulty in returning to civilian life.
These are battles that are fought on a private battleground, and ones that other Americans can only silently witness. Professional aide is often required — and sorely lacking — to address the issues afflicting many who have returned from war zones.
While longlasting help may be beyond the scope of what the average American can offer, there is one thing that anyone can do, for any veteran.
Reach out a hand, grasp theirs in yours, and tell them that you appreciate his or her willingness to be your shield against the forces that wish our country and its people harm. It is a small gesture that will not alter the everyday struggles a veteran may endure, but it could be the one moment in a day that makes that veteran remember why he or she is proud to have served in the US armed forces.