Kaufman: Honor veterans’ sacrifices today

While we should remember these men and women each day, Nov. 11 provides a special opportunity to truly reflect on their heroism and honor what they’ve done and still do.

St. Cloud Veterans Day parade (photo by A.J. Kaufman)

America’s veterans are among our most precious national treasures. The contributions of men and women who’ve worn the uniform of our military branches are immeasurable, so it’s only fitting we pause today to express gratitude for their service and sacrifice.

Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day, recognizing the dramatic peace agreement between the Allied nations and Germany to end World War I. This armistice took effect at 11:00 a.m. on 11/11/1918, and was signed on June 28, 1919 in France.

President Woodrow Wilson commemorated the first Armistice Day on 11/11/1919 by asking Americans to briefly suspend business activities beginning at 11:00. The intent was to reflect on the heroism of those who died in service to their country during the Great War.

Over time, the celebration was expanded to thank anyone who served in the military. Because of this, President and former Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower signed a 1954 bill to officially establish Nov. 11 as Veterans Day. The proclamation stated, in part, “let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly on the seas, in the air and on foreign shores to preserve our heritage of freedom.”

It’s been a tough year. Why not take a moment to recognize those who answered our nation’s call? Let’s celebrate their patriotism and willingness to sacrifice. Let’s reflect on the importance of what service members do to safeguard our way of life. And last of all, rededicate ourselves to protecting the unparalleled freedom and liberty we thankfully enjoy in the U.S.A. While we should remember these men and women each day, Nov. 11 provides a special opportunity to truly reflect on their heroism and honor what they’ve done and still do.

I asked veterans I know from each branch to reflect on the day and their service.

A friend in California served seven years in the Navy after college:

“If you had asked me at the time why I joined the Navy I would have given you a dozen conflicting reasons. But, as Veterans Day approaches, I am reminded of a multitude of reasons why I am glad that I did. None of those are more important than the pride I take in having served beside some of the finest men and women on this planet. Each of them made some sacrifice to keep the rest of us safe. All of them went through hardships; some delayed careers or families and others paid the ultimate price. Whatever their reasons, all veterans took an oath to protect our country and served honorably to fulfill that oath. That deserves some applause.”

My cousin in Ohio is a former Army Captain:

“Over the last several years, it’s wonderful to see our divided nation come together on Veterans Day, with an appreciation for those who served. That really feels genuine.”

A client in Kansas City served in the Marines, including multiple deployments in the War on Terror:

“When the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred, I saw it as my duty to serve our country and enlisted. If I am going to do something, I want to commit to that decision and be the best at the job. I call all of my military friends on Veterans Day, and celebrate the Marine Corps birthday because it’s the day before Veterans Day. I am reminded every day of the sacrifices our veterans make through reflection and memories I experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan. I fly a flag at my house year-round in honor of this great nation that many veterans gave their lives to defend.”

A former classmate has been an Air Force officer more than a decade:

“I thought joining the military would give me an opportunity to explore options in my field and also see the world. So far I’ve been stationed in Alabama, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, Germany, South Korea and Turkey. I am proud to serve alongside my grandfather, who served in the Army during WWII, and my dad is an Air Force vet. I stand for the national anthem out of respect for those who have died for our country, and I understand the sacrifices made by our military men and women.”

As someone who worked several years to honor veterans — in a building constructed to recognize World War I’s cessation — I surely will thank the 8% today.