The unique service of U.S. veterans
With the long presidential campaign finally behind us (and the next long presidential campaign likely to begin shortly), it’s worth turning our attention to one of the reasons we elect our leaders in the first place.
Sunday, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day. The date originally marked the end of fighting in World War I between the Allied nations and Germany.
The armistice was signed in 1918 on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and was officially designated Veterans Day in 1954 by President Dwight Eisenhower.
The day will be marked with a number of ceremonies, including events Monday in East Troy, Fontana, Genoa City, Walworth and Whitewater. (For a complete list, see our website at WalworthCountyToday.com.)
Also Monday, at 11 a.m., the Honoring Walworth County Current Military Service Rally will be held inside the Walworth County Government Center in downtown Elkhorn. The weekly rally, which began shortly after the war in Afghanistan began, honors servicemen and women with ties to Walworth County who are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and those who have served and returned.
Our country has produced generation after generation of veterans, although on occasion, we’ve had extended periods of both peace and prosperity.
For the years that I was a young adult, the United States enjoyed one of those eras.
It was the spring of my junior year in high school when the Vietnam War ended.
Until then, the war wasn’t far from the minds of those young men who were nearing the age of 18.
It also was the last war in which there was a draft.
Those turning 18 still are required to register with the selective service, but much has changed in the world since the 1970s, and a Vietnam-era draft is unlikely to happen again.
In the intervening years, there were a number of smaller conflicts. (Although like surgery, they were only minor if you weren’t involved.)
But by the time Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, launching the modern era wars in the Middle East, I was in my mid-30s.
Since that time, the United States has again become a nation with a significant number of military veterans.
Conflicts such as the intervention in Somalia from 1992 to 1994, the War in Iraq, which began in 2003; and the war in Afghanistan, launched shortly after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have swelled the ranks of veterans.
What makes U.S. veterans unique is that their service transcends politics. They serve because they have answered the call of their nation.
That’s why we elect our leaders, to make decisions about our national security.
Even in other democratic countries, that’s not always the case.
Take, for example, a report last weekend by an Israeli news channel that Israeli leaders asked the Israeli military in 2010 to prepare for an imminent attack on the Iranian nuclear program.
The proposal was blocked by concerns over whether the military could do so and whether the men had the authority to give such an order.
I’m not quite sure why plans for an attack on Iran are particularly newsworthy. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney said in their campaigns that they wouldn’t allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon, and a pre-emptive strike always has been an option.
What was newsworthy in that report, however, is that Israel’s military essentially told the civilian leaders, “no.”
So as remarkable as it is that our veterans were willing to risk their lives to protect our country, the idea that they would do so at the behest of a civilian commander in chief, elected by the people, is perhaps more important.
For that, we can all thank a veteran.