Today is Veterans Day, the day the U.S. government sets aside to honor all the men and women who have served the United States in one of the armed forces.
Most know that Veterans Day stems from Armistice Day, which was created to mark the end of World War I, when representatives of the German government signed the armistice to silence the guns of the war to end all wars on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
My family has a long tradition of serving in the military. A member of my family has fought in every major American war, from the Revolutionary War to the Afghanistan War. That includes both sides of the War for Southern Independence, which American historians incorrectly label the Civil War.
My great-great-great-grandfather, who was born in Ireland, took a ball through the arm during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House in May 1864, effectively ending his military service. The list is long of my Confederate ancestors who were injured or killed fighting for their country. The rest, fortunately, escaped serious injury or death.
I served for 23 years, including a year in the Iraq War. My sister is currently serving in the Afghanistan War. Even my immigrant grandfather, who fought with the Italian army in World War I, registered for the so-called old man’s draft here in the United States during World War II when he was in his late 40s.
So Veterans Day has meaning for me. I’m sure most of you reading this can also claim relatives who have fought for this country because there was a time when men and women simply did so, usually without question.
Since 1941, however, the United States has existed in a nearly perpetual state of war. In many of these campaigns, most Americans are even unaware they are happening. Serving in the military today means possibly fighting in some far-flung corner of the globe for a cause that has nothing to do with defending American freedom.
This has resulted in fewer men and women having actually military experience. It shows through media coverage. Very few people covering the military have actually ever served in the military.
It also shows in our politicians as fewer and fewer of them have served. President Barack Obama is only the 12th president to have never served in the military and this past election was probably rare in that neither candidate had ever served. This probably explains why Obama was frozen with fear in the Benghazi betrayal and coverup.
The number of military veterans serving in the Congress has declined as well. There were 167 veterans in the 107th Congress (2001-02), 153 in the 108th Congress (2003-04), 126 in the 110th Congress (2005-06), 121 in 111th Congress (2007-09), and 118 in the 112th Congress, which will wrap up this year. I have not researched the 113th Congress, which begins in January, but there is no reason to believe the decline will not continue.
Yet, the lack of military service by our politicians does not keep them from haphazardly using the military to achieve petty political goals in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, the Horn of Africa, Pakistan, the Philippines, and who knows where else. And that is just in the last four years under our Nobel Peace Prize president.
In fact, we have military personnel working in 148 countries around the world. We have nearly 700 bases in foreign countries, according to a 2010 Pentagon report. That report, however, failed to count all the bases in Iraq, Afghanistan and anywhere else where we are engaged in a conflict, so the number is probably closer to 900 bases as U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, has said.
Of our 1.43 million active duty members on Sept. 30, 2010, some 300,000 were stationed on foreign shores. And that figure does not include those overseas for deployments to contingency operations in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan or any of the other areas of operation in the war on terror. That adds at least another 220,000 service members, probably more as the Pentagon is a little sketchy on those numbers (understandably so) and they probably change quite frequently anyway.
So this Veterans Day, in addition to honoring those who have served, urge lawmakers to bring our troops home and stop wasting their lives on dubious empire-building adventures in foreign lands.
Thomas J. Lucente Jr. is a veteran of the Iraq war, has a bachelor’s degree in history and is a law student at the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio (graduating in December). He has been published in newspapers, magazines and websites across the country. He can be heard on “Talk with Ron Williams” on WCIT-AM at 4 p.m. Thursdays (listen at http://940wcit.com). Readers may write to him at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807-1538, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His telephone number is 800-686-9924, ext. 2095, or 419-993-2095. Visit his blog at http://www.lucente.org. Follow him on Twitter at http://tho.lu/twitter, Google Plus at http://tho.lu/google, and Facebook at http://tho.lu/facebook.