November 11, 2004


Editorial: Veterans Day 2004

There's something jolting about this holiday, which can arrive in the middle of the week, as is the case this year.

Veterans Day is observed on the 11th of November regardless of which day of the week it falls on, which is a good thing. It forces people to stop and think, if only for a few seconds, about why the day is special.

Too many other holidays, like those honoring Presidents Washington and Lincoln and the one last month marking Christopher Columbus' arrival in the New World, have been fashioned into three-day weekends in which the honorees are a mere afterthought.

Not this one, which began as a celebration of the signing of the armistice at "the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month" that ended World War I back in 1918. It, too, was made into a Monday holiday, but then restored to its rightful date at the insistence of proud armed services veterans who wanted the holiday to mean something.

This day, unfortunately, finds Americans once again at war, trying to send a message to Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah and continuing to hunt down terrorists in Afghanistan. Too many have died and too many lay wounded at military hospitals at the front, at overseas bases, and at other military hospitals in this country.

But the cause they are fighting for is a just one — the protection of the homeland and the export of our democratic principles to people who have suffered for centuries under the yoke of autocracy. It's a mission that was ratified by a majority of Americans in the election little more than a week ago and one we can't afford to lose.

Those just completing their tours of duty — our newest veterans — have returned to tell tales of horrific violence and a people living in grinding poverty. But many also express confidence in the U.S. mission in the Middle East and hope that someday all those in that troubled part of the world — Muslim, Jew and Christian — can live together in peace and prosperity.

Today in Washington, the Smithsonian Institution will open a new permanent exhibit at its National Museum of American History titled, "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War." Filled with artifacts from the 16 conflicts in which the U.S. military has been involved — from the one that gained us our freedom in 1781 to Operation Iraqi Freedom — the exhibit is a reminder that the rights and comforts we enjoy do not come without a cost.

It's for a noble purpose, rather than dreams of empire, that has the United States once again committing troops and resources to a mission thousands of miles from our shores. And those men and women who put their lives on the line, whether in past wars or the one we fight today, deserve every accolade that may come their way today.


(This article replicated online with permission of the Newburyport Daily News, an Eagle Tribune Newspaper.)

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