On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 the First World War came to a close. This is how the date was chosen for what we now celebrate as Veterans Day. That war consumed the lives of some 116,000 American soldiers and left more than 200,000 bearing the scars of their sacrifices. America’s president, Woodrow Wilson, declared our first Armistice Day. Presidents Coolidge and Eisenhower would bring Veterans Day into the form we now know. America has since fought many more wars spanning the globe for a myriad of political, strategic, and moral reasons. Those wars have left the citizens of this country safer and freer than most any other people on earth. A disadvantage of this is that a people who are both safe and free begin to take their safety and security for granted, as though they were entitled to it rather than recognizing it as the hard won gift it is. For an oblivious or apathetic people, it is too easy to fall into an unabashed cynicism about the politics of all the conflicts and wars our country has been through. Alternatively, it is also easy to adopt a hackneyed sentimentality that supposes that waving the flag and wearing one’s patriotism on their sleeve once a year will be enough to show solidarity with those who are serving or have served. America’s participation in foreign wars and its attempt to preserve peace and ensure the possibility of political self-determination across the globe have meant that many other nations have had pitifully little to contribute to their own nation’s freedom. As tempting as it is for this to be a cause of contempt, a wise people will read it as a warning. Freedom is not free, security is not something we are entitled to, and military supremacy is never assured. It depends upon a people who will willingly lay down their lives to see that others will be able to enjoy theirs. One estimate has it that 1,321,612 soldiers have died in battle since 1776, with another 1.5 million wounded. Not every wound is obvious and too many unacknowledged heroes walk among us. Please give this day the solemn attention it deserves and do something with your families that will remind them of what has been given for you to do today whatever it is that you will.

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