“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Abraham Lincoln (March 4, 1965)
Although Veterans Day was not established until the end of World War I (which was naively called “the war to end all wars”), the sentiment expressed by President Lincoln was the best description of how any great nation should treat its veterans. His words are as true today as they were in the aftermath of the Civil War that killed more than 600,000 Americans and wounded almost 500,000.
Following the two World Wars, we have engaged in almost endless wars, with fewer and fewer Americans bearing the burden of service. Those who do enlist often serve multiple tours in combat zones. The expression “Thank you for your service” has gone from a heartfelt thank you to something many veterans tell me they are sick of hearing.
On this anniversary of the conclusion the war that did not end all wars, let’s make a commitment to honor all of our brave service men and women, all those who served in the past, the families that sacrificed to support service members, and all those who will serve in the future.
To truly thank our veterans for their service, we should provide them with the best health care available and ensure they have easy and timely access to the benefits they earned. Equally important, we should honor their service by making certain we do not engage in wars that put our military in harms way unless it is absolutely necessary for our national security. Their lives, sacrifice and service are too valuable to do anything less.