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Honoring Those Who Serve

November 11, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Veterans Day, 2011 — 11/11/11 — comes just before the promise of the last American troops leaving Iraq by the end of this year, after nine years of often brutal war and its aftermath.

But it also comes at a perilous time, with 98,000 U.S. troops still serving in Afghanistan — and at least 1,712 of our men and women there have died on duty, including at least seven killed in hostile action since Oct. 29.

The unsettled political and violent circumstances in the Middle East also continue to threaten renewed American involvement. Just this week, an International Atomic Energy Agency report that Iran’s scientists are continuing to pursue secret activities leading to developing nuclear weapons put the entire world on alert. The pressure on the U.S. to intervene to keep Iran from possessing nuclear devices could well ratchet up in coming months.

Within the dangers we know and the dangers to come, we again honor those men and women who have served in the U.S. armed services.

Is there more to Nov. 11 than taking the day off as a paid holiday or finding a moment in our busy lives to praise veterans? Ret. Gen. Colin Powell recently wrote, “Many people refer to the World War II generation as the greatest one, but we’ve had greatness in every single generation of Americans who have served. I know of none greater than the generation of GIs now fighting for our country in Iraq and Afghanistan and serving around the world. Someday soon, they’ll need us to fight for them.”

Powell, who also served as secretary of state, urged Americans to commit to helping organizations such as the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, or the Disabled American Veterans.

In addition, you can fly an American flag today to show your appreciation, or attend local Veterans Day observances and thank veterans personally for their sacrifice and for what they’ve sacrificed to defend us.

If you’re a praying person, lift up the soldiers, sailors and pilots who are serving in foreign lands, that they would return home safely.

Once they get back, however, their job prospects are uncertain. Of the 2 million men and women in the labor force who served in the military since Sept. 11, 2001, 12.1 percent are unemployed. Among veterans younger than 25, the jobless rate is 25 percent.

In the private sector, employers need to seek out veterans, who bring self-discipline and maturity to the workplace.

In government, Congress on Thursday passed the part of President Barack Obama’s jobs bill providing a tax credit for companies that hire veterans. Unfortunately, economic researchers have found that using government tax credits to spur hiring of particular categories of workers is not particularly effective. Fortunately, the bill also expands training and education opportunities for older veterans and transition assistance for those still on active duty along with additional benefits for disabled vets.

Veterans Day — established Nov. 11, 1919, as Armistice Day — is the time we honor both the living and the dead. The last living World War I veteran died earlier this year and remaining World War II vets are leaving this world quickly.

Today’s veterans all volunteered for service, since the draft ended in 1973. Active-duty members serve alongside reservists all over the world.

None should be forgotten or overlooked — or left on the outside, looking for a job or an opportunity to serve at home.

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