Next Tuesday we will mark another Veterans Day. Many schools will have programs to mark the occasion. Clubs of various types will have activities to thank our veterans. Elected officials will make efforts to honor those who have served in our armed forces.
This week we enjoyed the freedom of voting for our elected representatives in an open process and secret ballots. Have you thanked a veteran lately?
Each of us has the right to worship as we see fit. We can pray where, when and to whom we see fit. We can pray publically and privately. We can chose to exercise no faith at all. Have you thanked a veteran lately?
In addition to voting for our governing leaders we can speak to them about our concerns and hopes. There are face to face opportunities to persuade elected officials. We can take up our pen or keyboard to communicate our views. We can carry a sign or even carry a tune in an effort to make our voices heard. Have you thanked a veteran lately?
Our public school system is one of America's greatest treasures, even though we constantly seek to improve our schools. Educational opportunities are there for those willing to apply themselves. Have you thanked a veteran lately?
Members of the armed services deal with sacrifices that are not easy to comprehend. Those in uniform in every era have known unique struggles throughout history.
The Revolutionary War soldiers had limited means of communicating with loved ones. They could expect limited time to return home for visits. The troops of that time experienced shameful deprivation by the government in terms of food, clothing and other material support.
Yet these farmers, shop keepers and tradesmen defeated the preeminent military force of the day.
The Civil War saw us turn passions against one another for years of brutal fighting. Eventually we were not only made whole again as a nation, but also the dehumanizing blight of slavery was removed from our shores.
The siege lines around Petersburg, Virginia in the end phase of the Civil War were in a way a forecast of the style of combat of World War I. Rifles in the Great War fired ever more rapidly.
The no man's land between the trenches in Europe in World War I became the grim reaping ground of barbed wire, machine guns and heavy artillery. If all those death-dealing innovations were not enough in that war, now attacks could come from airplanes and the ghoulish specter of poison gas.
While America and its allies were victors on the battlefield in World War I, the harsh peace terms which ended that war sowed the seeds for the demagogue dictator Adolf Hitler to spark a global gambit of conquest about 20 years later.
Stephen Ambrose is one of my favorite authors for historical accounts of World War II. He seemed to have insights into every level of command. He also helped his readers understand completely different aspects of that war. One example is "The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24's Over Germany 1944-45."
Presidential Lyndon B. Johnson greatly accelerated our participation in the war in Vietnam. Our forces there faced a bewildering array of challenges, such as figuring out exactly the identity of the enemy and why we were even fighting there. It is shameful to me that our brave warriors felt the wrath from the public when they returned home from this unpopular war.
Our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have certainly had their share of things about which we can cheer, and probably even more which have provoked tears. I have read a lot of autobiographical accounts from soldiers, sailors, Marines and pilots of this more recent history.
One account that stands out is by Sergeant First Class Joseph Kapacziewski titled "Back in the Fight, the Explosive Memoir of a Special Operator Who Never Gave Up." He lost his right leg in combat, yet with some incredible determination and support he returned to combat with the elite Army Rangers with aid of a prosthetic leg.
We owe more to veterans than mere words can repay, but please use your words anyway. Thank a veteran every chance you get.
Michael Zimmer writes from Eldersburg. His column appears on Fridays. Email him at email@example.com.