JoAnn Alumbaugh
JoAnn Alumbaugh

U.S. veterans have received various “welcome home” greetings through the years, often depending on the type of war in which they fought. Regardless of the war, our respect and gratitude for their service should never be minimized, especially on Veterans Day.

My 90-year-old dad has been staying at our house for a few weeks, so the television has been on much more than usual. This morning was different from the usual sports wrap-up of the previous day and controversial blurbs about who did what to whom.

Today is the beginning of Veterans Day celebrations throughout the country. ESPN was reporting live from the U.S. Naval Academy, and sportscasters were giving fitting tributes to veterans everywhere.

It reminded me of the stark difference in how veterans are treated today compared to how Vietnam veterans were treated when they returned home from war. It’s like comparing fact to fiction.

Roger Staubach, well-known quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys for 11 years, was interviewed this morning and he reflected on the same topic. He talked about how difficult it was for Vietnam veterans and how society’s overall view of the war changed how veterans were treated when they came home. He said, “We’re doing the right thing for veterans today,” with the unspoken reproach: We didn’t do right by our veterans before. Staubach played football for the Naval Academy. Though drafted in 1964, he didn’t begin playing pro ball until 1969, when his commitment to the Navy was completed.

Think about the factors that impact how we feel about an event or person. Unless we’re careful, our opinions can be colored by how something is said almost as much as by what is said. Unspoken biases, especially when shared collectively, have a tremendous impact on our opinions, even when we’re consciously trying to be objective. And finding “the truth” is more difficult than ever, because we can’t be completely certain the sources we choose are objective. It’s our responsibility to dig deep, question conventional wisdom and get as close to the truth as possible.

This much I do know: My father-in-law was a veteran of World War II. Three of my dad’s brothers were veterans of the Korean War. My sister’s fiancé was in the Navy. He was killed on a platoon boat in Vietnam. There is absolutely no question in my mind that he deserves just as much of our gratitude and appreciation for his ultimate sacrifice as those who fought in any other conflict.

Take a moment to think about the servicemen and women you know who fought for our freedom as well as those who are presently serving. Tell us about them, and pay tribute to the honor and duty to which they committed on behalf of all Americans.

For our younger readers, here’s brief history of Veteran’s Day.

Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities.  This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect. (Photo on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website).

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides this background on Veterans Day:

World War I, known at the time as “The Great War,” officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

In 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, to honor all veterans, not just those who fought in World War I.