From distant writers comes a passionate plea for both the care and honor that our veterans deserve.
In the midst of the many heartfelt tributes and parades that took place this Veterans Day around the country, there were two editorials that, taken together, speak volumes about the obligation and the thanks that all those in service to our country deserve from each of us.
While the major media and social media focused most of its attention on the remarks made by President Obama at Arlington National Cemetery, an editorial by Eric Shinseki, Secretary of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, ran on the opinion page of AL.com, the online newspaper serving the State of Alabama. The VA Secretary wrote:
"Our gratitude for veterans should not be a one day a year event, but an abiding commitment on every day of every year. There must be no question that this large and powerful country will meet its obligations to them with the same urgency, skill, and determination as it deploys them on critical missions when our nation calls."
For me, it's a little ironic that I found his editorial there. Perhaps I just have a special relationship with Alabama. I earned my wings as an Army helicopter pilot at Fort Rucker in Dothan, my last post before leaving for Vietnam in 1969 to fly Hueys for the First Cavalry Division. And today my youngest son is a sophomore at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa training with the Army ROTC.
Maybe that's also why I read the Tuscaloosa News regularly. And I am glad I do.
It was in that newspaper, also on Veterans Day, that I read a different but very powerful editorial:
"All who fight today fight because they choose to. They fight because they believe this country is worth fighting for. They are not conscripted or impressed into service. Their willingness to sacrifice is something for which all of us who enjoy the benefits of the security and peace they provide should be thankful."
What struck me about these two points of view is that they are so closely linked. While they come from distant quarters - one written by a newspaper editor and the other by a retired four-star US Army general - they could have been two paragraphs in the same essay.
The editors at the Tuscaloosa News talk about the passion for freedom and the willingness to take up arms and even sacrifice for peace.
And VA Secretary Shinseki talks about the obligation our government and the rest of us have to provide the support and care that soldiers deserve when they come home, wounded or not.
Most important, they both talk about what happens when our nation calls. And they both call for the honor and our obligation that comes with service.
Together they hark back to Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural address. On March 4, 1865, President Lincoln spoke of healing the nation's wounds just one month before the Civil War would come to an end. In that famous speech, he said:
"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 ...."
It is in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln's words that the VA is dedicated. It is in that same spirit that the Tuscaloosa News editors urge us to be thankful.
And it is in that spirit that we should come together each and every day, not just once a year, to salute and say Thank You to those who serve whenever our nation calls.