The Veterans Day Parade, NYC
On July 29, 2001, five exceptional men were honored by the President of the United States for their remarkable military service. They were involved in a top secret mission that required unfathomable intelligence and as a result, literally won a battle which was instrumental in winning the war. Not the war that was happening in 2001, not even the Gulf War. It was World War II, and they were the Navajo Code Talkers who were largely responsible for winning the bloody battle of Okinawa. The only problem with the ceremony was that just 5 remained of the original 29. Our country was too late in thanking the other 24, and nearly too late in thanking those 5 men.
On March 10, 2010, three hundred women won the Congressional Gold medal for their outstanding war service. Unfortunately, 800 received the award posthumously. These were the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) of World War II, who devoted themselves to flying military aircraft like the B-26 and B-29 Bombers - an idea that was absolutely unheard of for women at that time. Our country gave them no ceremony, no thank you, and did not even pay for the funerals of the ones who were lost during their service. And we were nearly too late to thank these 300 ladies.
In 2006, a girl hugged her friend goodbye one night before he left for Iraq in the morning. He was eager to serve and quite willing to go. "See you when you get back," she said as he walked away into the night. But she never said "thank you." And for this young man, it was too late. In the final hour before First Lieutenant Kevin Gaspers left for war, I missed the chance to express the gratitude he deserved and took it fore granted that he would come home. He was killed April 23, 2007.
In 1919, President Wilson proclaimed of the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month (Armistice Day, later known as Veterans Day):
"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with lots of pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations."
Today, don't let it be too late to thank the Veterans you know.
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." -John Fitzgerald Kennedy