Show military veterans appreciation they deserve

On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, we pause to give thanks to those who have served both to defend our nation’s liberty and to aid in protecting the flame of freedom around the world.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 18 million veterans living across the country and about 600,000 in Illinois. The Veteran’s Health Administration is the largest integrated health care network in the United States, with 1,255 health care facilities serving 9 million people each year.

But the level of care accorded to veterans has not always been commensurate with the service they rendered. History records that the poverty of Revolutionary War veterans initiated a complicated history between the U.S. and its soldiers. During the Civil War, draft rioters marched in protest of the greater burden military service placed on the poor. During the Great Depression, an army of World War I veterans marched on Washington looking for long-overdue compensation. And Vietnam War veterans returned to public outrage for participating in a conflict that many of them had not chosen.

For service members of color, it wasn’t until 1948 — after hundreds of African-American soldiers gave their lives in World War II — when President Harry Truman signed an executive order finally abolishing racial segregation in the military.

“It is hereby declared to be the policy of the president that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin,” the order stated.

Many have captured in words the honored place that veterans occupy in our society.

• “America’s Veterans have served their country with the belief that democracy and freedom are ideals to be upheld around the world.” — former Congressman John Doolittle

• “There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism.” — Alexander Hamilton

• “Honoring the sacrifices many have made for our country in the name of freedom and democracy is the very foundation of Veterans Day.” — Congressman Charles Rangel

• “My heroes are those who risk their lives every day to protect our world and make it a better place.” — writer Sidney Sheldon

• “How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” — poet Maya Angelou

• “This will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.” – former director of the U.S. Office of War Information Elmer Davis

• “Never was so much owed by so many to so few” – Winston Churchill

And, lastly, these remarks from President John F. Kennedy:

“We celebrate this Veterans Day for a very few minutes, a few seconds of silence and then this country’s life goes on. But I think it most appropriate that we recall on this occasion, and on every other moment when we are faced with great responsibilities, the contribution and the sacrifice which so many men and their families have made in order to permit this country to now occupy its present position of responsibility and freedom.”

Thank you, veterans, for your service, from a grateful nation.