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Author, businessman and decorated Marine veteran Karl Marlantes wrote, “When the peace treaty is signed, the war isn’t over for the veterans, or the family. It’s just starting.”
In 1968, at the age of 23, he volunteered for service in Vietnam.
When he left the service in 1972, he didn’t get a parade as a hometown hero. As a matter of fact, at that time he kept any details about his service to himself. The people at home were tired of the Vietnam War.
But through the years, he continued to struggle with his memories of war. These are memories most of us cannot begin to understand, no matter how many times we watch movies such as “Platoon.”
But there is no reason for us to forget what brave men and women accomplished on our behalf, taking years out of their lives to help protect ours.
Today is Veterans Day in the United States. It coincides with the anniversary of the end of that War to End all Wars, the Great War, simply known to us as World War I.
Treaties were not formally signed on that day, but the fighting ended on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, nearly 100 years ago.
The following year, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation setting aside the Nov. 11 as a day to celebrate the cessation of the fighting. It was known as Armistice Day back then and was celebrated with parades, speeches and more.
Later, the day got a new name and purpose - honoring the veterans of all wars.
And while we will honor those who died in battle on this day, Veterans Day’s main thrust is to remember those who came back after service in the military. These giants who still walk among us.
This is a day for everyone who ever donned a uniform, who made a commitment to serve his or her nation and all of us.
At the 11th hour today, all veterans will be honored and remembered in a special program at the Wilson County Courthouse. There will be patriotic music, wreath ceremonies and even a rifle volley salute.
We encourage everyone who is able to attend to join in this tribute to those who served. This event is not just for veterans. It is also for those of us who did not serve. It is an excellent opportunity for us to say thank you in a meaningful way to those who did.
As Marlantes wrote, a veteran of the military never fully takes off the uniform, even when back at home. There are battles they still face that many of us cannot completely appreciate. But we can at the very least say thanks, whether at today’s ceremony or wherever we might happen to be any day of the year.
To all those who have served, we salute you.
Editor’s Note: A version of this editorial was first published in The Wilson Times on Nov. 11, 2015.