Saluting our veterans for their service

Published 12:00 pm Sunday, November 13, 2022

“Veterans know better than anyone else the price of freedom, for they’ve suffered the scars of war. We can offer them no better tribute than to protect what they have won for us.” President Ronald Reagan, 1983, in a radio address to the nation.

This quote certainly defines the task we have as Americans to not only acknowledge the bravery and contributions of our Veterans, but to continue to safeguard our rights and the pursuit of the American dream.  

We have only to look at the horrors of the war being waged in Ukraine—and for no good purpose other than to satisfy a madman’s ego and desire to demonstrate his power over a country that just happens to share a border.  And one that Putin thought he could easily conquer and dominate.  

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, 167,284 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive in 2022 but their numbers are rapidly decreasing, on average of 180 dying each day.  

Almost 40,000 Americans died in action in Korea, and more than 100,000 were wounded.  These statistics from a war that lasted from 1950 to 1953.  It is often called the “Forgotten War” since it was overshadowed by World War II and Vietnam.  The Korean War was among the most destructive conflicts of the modern era, with approximately 3 million war fatalities and a larger proportional civilian death toll than World War II or the Vietnam War.  And present-day North Korea’s “supreme leader” Kim Jong-Un is currently teasing and testing South Korea by launching missiles and triggering air-raid alerts.  

The Vietnam War lasted from 1954 to 1975 with the United States entering the war in 1965. There are many Vietnam veterans alive today in 2022, with more than 56,000 here in Mississippi according to World Population Review, an independent organization without political affiliations. We honor the 58,318 U.S. patriots who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam.

Surprisingly, there are more than 2 million women veterans who live in the U.S. today and make up 10 percent of the overall veteran population.  It used to be that women were relegated to serving as nurses in the military.  Think Florence Nightingale.  But today’s military woman might likely serve in many different areas such as mechanics and pilots, proving themselves in many roles not just health care.  

This is an excerpt of a poem written by Karla Dorman in 2013 and inspired by Paul Harvey’s “So God Made A Farmer.”

He needed somebody with arms strong enough to carry Freedom on their back and yet gentle enough to hold an enemy’s child; someone who is willing to serve their Nation without expecting a reward upon their return; someone who will stand straight and tall in the rage of war; someone who looks fear in the face and does it anyway even though it goes against everything they believe in, even though it gives them nightmares for years to come … so God made a Veteran.

As we stop to honor our Veterans, let’s take the time to reflect on the commitment required to be in the military—being absent from your family, leaving behind their “normal” life, often being on foreign soil.  They’ve missed birthdays, funerals, and other milestone celebrations.  Consider the long hours, with no extra pay.  Being in danger and having to defend yourself and your fellow soldiers. And you just might have to compromise your belief system.  Not an easy way of life.  

Happy Veterans Day to our soldiers, both past and present. We owe you our thanks, but more importantly, we owe you our freedom.

Bonnie Brown writes a weekly column for The Oxford Eagle. You can reach her a bbrown@olemiss.edu.