“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 …” – President Woodrow Wilson / Nov. 11, 1919

On Monday, we will observe the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day.

It’s a day filled with ceremony and speeches and parades. It’s a day to hear patriotic messages and to look upon our flag with solemn pride.

But these worthwhile events are symbols of something greater. They represent immeasurable sacrifices made by every man and woman who put on a uniform, traveled to wherever they were assigned and fulfilled their part to defend our country.

Veterans Day is a reminder that we are indebted to our veterans far beyond a single day. We are reminded that without these men and women who serve their country, none of us would have a country.

“Every veteran who served had an important job to do,” said Marvin Lockhart II, a Victoria resident and former District 24 commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “Whether they saw combat action or not, no job was less important than any other job.”

Lockhart served from 1965 to 1969 during the Vietnam War in the U.S. Air Force weapons systems, Strategic Air Command, Tactical Air Command and Air National Guard.

He said Veterans Day is one way to demonstrate our appreciation to service men and women for what they did and what they gave up.

“Veterans Day reaches a lot of people in different ways,” he said. “Our veterans have given us so much for our country. They were prepared to give their lives.”

For Lockhart, the day is a reminder that too many veterans are not getting all the benefits they are entitled to receive. Also, the amount of help they receive after their service should be more, he said.

According to themilitarywallet.com, a personal finance and benefits website for military members, veterans and their families:

  • Slightly more than 1 in 10 homeless people in America are veterans.
  • More than 968,000 veterans lived in poverty in the past year.
  • 20,000 veterans with government sponsored mortgages lost their homes in 2010.
  • 76% of homeless veterans experience alcohol, drug, or mental health issues.
  • 30.2% of veterans ages 18-24 are unemployed.

As Lockhart said, many veterans leave their homes and leave their families to serve, but they often return in a sad condition – some with visible wounds; others with scars that are unseen.

So let us resolve to strengthen our support for all veterans as this observance approaches. We must push our elected leaders to advocate for greater and faster assistance for all who have served.

And we – who have never been in the armed forces – must take time to salute these men and women on Veterans Day.

We owe them a profound debt of gratitude.

And to all veterans, thank you for serving.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.

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