When U.S. Navy Equipment Operator 2nd Class Thomas Andreassen finished his acceptance speech at Saturday’s Veteran of the Year ceremony, he concluded with these words: “Let us never forget their sacrifice.” The Leeds veteran was referring to the thousands of American men and women in military service who gave all they could — including their lives — to safeguard our way of life.

Today is Veterans Day, when we set aside time to salute our servicemen and women and share stories about their extraordinary courage to risk body and soul to protect an abstract social and political system known as democracy. The observance date — the 11th day of the 11th month — cannot be moved or changed. Veterans have been honored on this date, and only this date, since 1919 when President Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation.

As of Oct. 31, 2021, more than 1.4 million men and women are on active military duty, with more than 600,000 backing them up in the reserve forces including the U.S. Coast Guard, according to the Department of Defense. In short, more than 2 million men and women are performing the herculean task of watching over the lives and property of more than 300 million Americans.

It’s important to remember as we honor our veterans today that everyone who wears the uniforms of the official five military branches do it voluntarily. The draft was abolished in 1972, when Richard M. Nixon was president.

It’s important to remember the world is a much different place today than it was just a few years ago. The new enemy is an insidious and unpredictable pandemic that has killed 5 million people worldwide and almost 740,000 Americans at home. The resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan put the COVID-weary world on alert. The United States is struggling to rebuild trust among allies left confused and wary by four years of an incompetent presidential administration. We live in a time of broken civility and corporate recklessness.

The armed services are trying to regain their footing, not to mention their prestige, in this not-so-brave new world.

And it’s important today to remember the military men and women who toil in dangerous places to defend the simple freedom to elect our leaders, freely express our views and opinions and many other liberties. We hope our veterans will hear this simple yet heartfelt message: Thank you for your service.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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