They leave their families and friends behind them at such a young age.
Barely old enough to vote in this country, our country’s service members put their lives on the line. They go through unbelievably difficult training, then wait on alert for when they may be dispatched to the most dangerous areas of the world.
Whether they’re soldiers, marines, airmen or guardsmen, they’re ready to serve our country. And today, on Veterans Day, we recognize and salute their efforts.
So frequently, our country focuses on the efforts of those who died in combat. or battled during the World Wars. Those contributions can’t be understated. There is no greater sacrifice — or honor — than to give up your life for the benefit of others.
Still, we must not take for granted the people lucky enough to return from service alive. They’re our friends and neighbors, 18.5 million strong in the nation with 800,000 in Ohio. They put behind the things they saw and did while in training and combat and try to live normal lives.
They frequently returned to a country that frankly wasn’t that grateful for what they did. Sure, the 768,000 surviving veterans from World War II are credited as the “Greatest Generation.” The 6.7 million who served in the Vietnam Era, though, came home without fanfare from an unpopular war. It’s true, too, for the 1.6 million veterans from the Korean War.
That was a different time, when many young people considered it the greatest honor to be able to fight for your country. Now it’s hardly considered an option for many people. The Pentagon says 71 percent of America’s 17- to 24-year-old population would fail to qualify for enlistment. Of those eligible, only 1 percent even have an interest, the Army estimated.
They truly are the few and the proud. Yet they’re not adequately honored.
Those serving in the Gulf War era, from August 1990 to now, often aren’t appreciated, as videos make war look so high tech and sophisticated but shortchange the very real danger in what our service members do.
Even if you didn’t support the government’s decision to engage in a particular military action, you must respect the difficulties these veterans endured. It’s not easy to uproot yourself from the only life you knew, only to be trotted across the war and lunge into harm’s way.
While less than 1 percent of those on active duty between 1980 and 2010 died while in service, it’s still a genuine risk when entering hostile territories. They’re compensated for their efforts, no doubt, between their pay and their educational benefits. Still, that’s a pittance compared to the risks they took for each of us.
We’re grateful they decided to defend our great nation. They deserve our respect and admiration for stepping up and serving our nation when our nation needed them.