Published Monday, November 11, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 4:09 pm
World-Herald editorial: Gratitude for veterans' sacrifice

There is plenty of time for talk about the future of the American military, from the size and scope of the fighting force, to the benefits for service, to the weapons our men and women will tote.

But on Veterans Day, it is important that we stop and show a nation’s gratitude to the 23 million Americans who have served our country and come home, to our friends and neighbors who volunteered or were drafted into the U.S. armed forces.

The window to honor World War II and Korean War veterans is fleeting. The push for honor flights to Washington, even during the government’s partial shutdown, is a testament to the urgency of getting these aging veterans to their war memorials in time. But Vietnam veterans are aging as well, and Gulf War vets won’t be far behind.

There is always a next up, and one day that next person in line will be an Afghan War vet, or someone who fought in the second Iraq War.

That’s why it is heartwarming to read in the Public Pulse about the many small ways people in the Midlands still say thank you to our veterans. To cite just a few examples: a restaurant meal paid for, or a hearty handshake to a traveling Marine at Eppley Airfield.

Ours is a place that still respects the hard work and sacrifice of military service. Neighborhoods around Offutt Air Force Base reveal families who wait each night for word of a loved one’s safe return. These are families who’ve raised children without the comfort of a spouse at home, who’ve been to PTA bake sales and support meetings, folks who’ve kept the home fires burning.

More than a decade of war after 9/11 has replenished the ranks of those who have gone abroad to war and come home changed. Many have had harder times than expected finding work, which is unfortunate for them and for the companies that missed out, because veterans are often the hardest-working men and women across the region.

If employers are looking this Veterans Day for ways to help their country, look again through those stacks of applications and hire one.

In Nebraska, perhaps Veterans Day is an opportunity for reflection by Grand Island supporters of an effort to derail the construction of a new state veterans home in Kearney. Perhaps it is time to step back and make sure this squabble doesn’t derail federal funding for what veterans need.

In Washington, perhaps it is time to steal some focus from Obamacare and shift it toward the health care system that serves veterans. The VA system faces the twin challenges of serving young veterans with the wounds of war and caring for aging veterans who now need specialized care.

Congress might get credit in D.C. for ending the partial shutdown it created, but it was a band of elder brothers who forced their hands with a welcome act of civil disobedience.

Those veterans who would not take no for an answer and marched to see the memorial that honors their service shamed the political class and reminded them of the far greater price others have paid for the people’s government.

Today, their sacrifice is what we should recall.

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