Veterans Day: Service

Few Americans serve or have served in the nation’s armed forces or have family members in the military service, so special commemorations, like Veterans Day, become all the more important for fellow citizens to take the time and reflect upon and renew the promise to those who have served and are still serving the cause of peace, justice and liberty — increasingly in many hot spots around the world.

The number of military veterans totals about 22 million, according to U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs data. Combining that number of veterans with active duty military personnel (about 1.4 million) means that only “7.3% of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives,” according to FiveThirtyEight.com.

Many citizens may not know, for example, that most U.S. military recruits — almost two-thirds —  come from areas in which household income is lower than the national median, according to a non-profit group, National Priorities Project, that examined Defense Department data. Many of the counties the recruits come from had higher poverty rates than the national and state averages.

How many of us have recognized that from the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, immigrants have made significant contributions to the United States by serving in our military forces? Today, immigrants voluntarily serve in all branches, are a vital resource in the ongoing conflict against Al Qaeda, ISIS and their affiliates, have helped the Pentagon meet recruiting goals, and more than 700 are members of the hallowed Medal of Honor fraternity, according to the Immigration Policy Center.

The nation’s collective promise to returning soldiers includes that they need not bear their sacrifice and wounds alone, that they won’t be forgotten and their families will not have to face the future with uncertainty. The nation has promised that we will remember to embrace and care for survivors of those who do not return.

Veterans Day comes only a short time away from Thanksgiving Day. That feels right, because both holidays make us count our blessings and give thanks.

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