November 11th is Veterans Day, saluting all the men and women who have served in the armed forces. Mere words are not sufficient on this day. Shake the hands of everyone you meet who has served and thank them for their service. And if you see someone in uniform, pick up their tab, whether it’s a cab, a drink, a meal, or groceries. It’s a small act of kindness for those who fill the role of defender as outlined in our anthem.

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ’In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

“The Star Spangled Banner”, fourth stanza

Veterans Day

Joseph Ambrose, an 86-year-old World War I veteran, attends the dedication day parade for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982, holding the flag that covered the casket of his son, who had been killed in the Korean War. (from Wikipedia)

Today is Memorial Day, the day set aside to remember those who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Since the birth of our nation in armed conflict and again in each generation, brave men and women have stood “Between their loved home and the war’s desolation” to keep our nation and its people free. So as you enjoy your vacation from school or work, your barbeques, or your fun times today, remember that you are free to do so because millions of American men and women served in the armed forces to keep our nation free, and too many of them gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving.

Don’t mistake this day for Veterans Day, which honors all veterans, not just those who died. But nothing says you can’t (or shouldn’t) thank any member of the military you encounter today.

Here are several good Memorial Day links well worth visiting:

Michelle Malkin

Gateway Pundit

Hot Air

Below is a wonderful National Geographic special about Arlington National Cemetery hosted on Hulu titled “Arlington: Field of Honor”.

And to finish off this post and to list out their sacrifice, here is a table taken from the Wikipedia article on American casualties of war. I have edited the list to enumerate only the dead, not the wounded.

War or conflict Date Deaths
combat other total
American Revolutionary War 1775–1783 8,000 17,000 25,000
Quasi-War 1798–1800 20 20
Barbary Wars 1801–1815 35 35
Other actions against pirates 1800–1900 10 10
Northwest Indian War 1785–1795 1221+
War of 1812 1812–1815 2,260 ~17,000 ~20,000
First Seminole War 1817–1818 30 30
Black Hawk War 1832 60+
Second Seminole War 1835–1842 328 ~1,500
Mexican–American War 1846–1848 1,733 11,550 13,283
Third Seminole War 1855-1858 26 26
Civil War: total 1861–1865 212,938 ~625,000
Union 140,414 224,097 364,511
Confederate 72,524 ~260,000
Indian Wars 1865–1898 919
Korean expedition 1871 3 3
Spanish–American War 1898 385 2,061 2,446
Philippine–American War 1898–1913 1,020 3,176 4,196
Boxer Rebellion 1900–1901 37 37
Mexican Revolution 1914–1919 35+
Occupation of Haiti 1915–1934 146
World War I 1917–1918 53,402 63,114 116,516
Northern Russian Expedition 1918-1920 424
American Expeditionary Force Siberia 1918-1920 189
China 1918; 1921; 1926-1927; 1930; 1937 5
US occupation of Nicaragua 1927-1933 48
World War II 1941–1945 291,557 113,842 405,399
China {Cold War} 1945-1947 13
Berlin Blockade 1948-1949 31
Korean War 1950–1953 30,880 2806 36,516
Russia {Cold War} 1950-1955 32
China {Cold War} 1956 16
Bay of Pigs Invasion 1961 4
Vietnam War 1957–1973 47,424 10,785 58209
Invasion of Dominican Republic 1965-1966 13
El Salvador Civil War 1980–1992 9 20
Beirut deployment 1982–1984 256 266
Persian Gulf escorts 1987–1988 39 0 39
Invasion of Grenada 1983 18 1 19
Invasion of Panama 1989 23 40
Gulf War 1990–1991 148 151 299
Somalia 1992–1993 29 14 43
Haiti 1994–1995 1 4
Bosnia-Herzegovina 1995-2004 1 12
Kosovo 1999 1 19 20
Afghanistan 2001–present 463 214 677
Iraq War 2003–present 3,760 540 4,300

Today is Veterans Day. When I think of our veterans, I think of men like my grandfather who fought in the Pacific theater of World War II, or my father who was a fighter pilot and flew missions over Vietnam. But it recently hit me that my cousin Tom, several years my junior, is now a veteran. My thanks and respect go out to these three, and to the millions of others who have put on the uniform of the United States. I love this cartoon, put together by Cox and Forkum for Veterans Day last year.

Veterans Day -- Thank You

They also pointed to an editorial written by Edwin A. Locke, titled Giving Real Meaning to Veterans Day. Here are some highlights of that editorial:

Because human life is so precious, war should never be undertaken unless our rights are threatened. It is often said that our soldiers must sacrifice themselves for our country. This is precisely what we must not ask them to do. A sacrifice entails the surrender of a greater value for a lesser one. But if a man loses his life on the premise, “I would rather die than live in slavery,” it is a tragic loss — but it is not a sacrifice. Such a man is acting in his own interests, to protect his most precious values.

We must be proud of our soldiers, but it is equally true that they should be proud of the cause they fight for. It is terrible to die in war, but there is one thing worse: to die in a war that has no meaning, a war that offers no reason for risking one’s life.

The best way we can honor our veterans and give real meaning to Veterans Day–aside from ceremonies honoring their past and present dedication and bravery–is to promise that we will go to war only when America’s interests as a free nation are threatened, and wage it in the uncompromising pursuit of victory.

I have often heard people claim to support the troops, but not the war in Iraq. My quick response to that statement is to ask exactly how they support the troops. Are they helping the troops by contributing to projects such as Soldiers’ Angels, Any Soldier or Project Valor-IT? These are very concrete ways of supporting the troops and letting them know how much we value them and their service.

But every time I have asked about truly showing support, these people have admitted that they haven’t done anything for the troops overseas, or they explain that they are doing their part by trying to bring the troops home as soon as possible. I follow this up with a simple question–if they had the power to snap their fingers and instantly transport the troops back to their homes, would they do so? So far, all the people I’ve asked have claimed they would do exactly that if they could.

And what would happen if the troops were to vanish from Iraq? While that nation has seen an amazing amount of progress, with the increasingly competent police force able to keep the peace and the successful ratification of the Iraqi Constitution, if our troops were to vanish tomorrow, the forces of evil still at play in that region would do their best to tear that progress down. I say evil, and I mean it. That is the best word to describe people who think strapping on a bomb and exploding themselves at a wedding is a good and noble idea. These are the people we are fighting in Iraq, and we are winning! If we were to pull out, the deaths of 2,000 brave American men and women would be in vain, and the freedom that 26 million Iraqis now enjoy would vanish.

Remember, two million Vietnamese and one million Cambodians were slaughtered because we left them and the Communists swiftly took over. Is cutting and running the best way to “wage [war] in the uncompromising pursuit of victory,” as Locke wrote?

Do the liberal Leftists in the U.S. really support the troops? Some do, and I can’t deny that. But as far as I can see, the majority of Leftists do not support the troops. They are doing everything they can to distract from the brave actions of the military by calling them babykillers and demanding that more photos be released from Abu Ghraib to fan the flames of their hate.

The Veterans Day celebration in the city of Berkeley, California was canceled because chairman Joe McDonald wanted to have Bill Mitchell as the keynote speaker at the rally. Mitchell, along with shameless media whore Cindy Sheehan, is a co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace. From the Knight-Ridder news article:

“If you want to have an anti-war rally, count me in,” said Linda Perry, an aide to City Councilman Laurie Capitelli. “But not on Veterans Day. It’s neither the time nor the place.”

Edwin Harper, adjutant of the local Disabled American Veterans chapter, which has participated in past Berkeley Veterans Day observances, threatened that his group would pull out.

“They have the other 364 days and 23 hours to make their political point,” he said. “This one hour should be reserved for honoring veterans, period.”

McDonald, backed by other members of the committee, disagreed, saying that not permitting Mitchell to express his point of view would be tantamount to censoring free speech.

Please. Yes, Mitchell is free to express his anti-war views, but Linda Perry had it right–a Veterans Day celebration is neither the time nor the place to air your political grievances. And speaking of neither the time nor the place, “social justice” group CODEPINK is planning to focus, as it always does, on the dead this Veterans Day. Coffins and crosses will represent those who have died in Iraq. I can predict with certainty that there will be many with signs or t-shirts calling for the troops to come home.

Rather than focusing on those who have fallen, this is a day we ought to thank our neighbors and friends for their service to our nation. And to all of you, thank you.

We are in your debt.

November 11th is Veterans Day in the United States. This is the day we remember our servicemen and women who have placed their bodies “between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.” This is the day when everyone should buy some poppies from those old guys wearing the funny hats, who hang around at stores and street corners. Buy a few, shake their hands and thank them for their service. Look them in the eye when you do this, and then thank God that your eyes have been spared the horrors that these grey-haired gentlemen have witnessed. They do not know you, but they did it for you.

I am thinking of an elderly man whom I never had the chance to meet, but who was a friend of my father for many decades. Homer lied about his age so he could enlist in the Oklahoma National Guard at 16. Later, when the Army discovered that he had not finished high school, they discharged him so he could complete his education. But then it was December 7th, 1941, and Homer turned right around and went back to his unit. During his five years of service, he fought in Africa, the island of Sicily, mainland Italy, Austria, and Germany. On his first day of combat, his entire regiment was held down by some artillery on the near hillside. Homer and his brother crept up the hillside under cover of darkness, assaulting and killing the 12 to 14 soldiers who were manning the artillery there. He was wounded in this encounter and in many others, but he never sought attention from the medical corps. Homer knew that if he did, they would pull him from the front lines, and he could not desert his friends in the 45th Infantry Division. His last combat was in Munich, fighting room to room and to the last man in SS headquarters. He was awarded both the Silver and Bronze Stars for his actions, but it was only a short time before his death as a very old man that he was finally awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. You did not know him, but he served to protect your freedom.

I am thinking of my grandfather, Virgil. He was part of the 1st Cavalry, 7th Division, the same in which Custer served. During World War II, this division went island-hopping through the Pacific, liberating civilians from the Japanese. Virgil was called “Pops” by the troops since, at 33, he was by far the oldest one there. He did not need to serve in the military–he had been working for Shell Oil, and jobs in the petroleum industry were just as vital to the war effort as front-line soldiers. Virgil wanted to serve, but he explained to his bosses that he could not care for his family with a private’s pay. Shell told him that they would make up the difference if he wanted to serve, so he went and signed right up. Virgil volunteered for the Navy, but when the final assignment came he was tapped for service in the Army. He was part of the forces that landed on the islands of Leyte and Luzon, in the Philippines. At one point on Luzon Island, Virgil was asked to go and retrieve a wounded soldier. Since he didn’t have his boots on at the time, his friend James Jory jumped up and went instead. James ended up dying on this mission, having gone in my grandfather’s place. Later a telegram arrived at home indicating Virgil was missing and presumed dead, followed shortly by a telegram with the news that he was wounded and in the hospital. He was decorated for his two years of service. You did not know him, but he served to protect your freedom.

I am thinking of my wife’s grandfather, Karl. For many years, all that his family knew about his military experiences was that he had served honorably in World War II. It was not until the early 1980s, when his file was finally declassified, that Karl was free to tell his family that he had served in the 10th Mountain Division. He was part of the elite ski troops, but his most important missions were covert and deep behind enemy lines in Italy and Germany. During one of these missions, he was wounded in the leg; it was later amputated. He remained reticent to discuss most of his service to the end of his days; he died a month before Veterans Day 2004. While he was most likely worthy of being decorated, he did not seek for any medals. If you had visited his study, you would immediately have noticed his love of sailing ships, books, and family photographs, but there was nothing on display to indicate that he even served in the military. Those were memories he would rather have forgotten. You did not know him, but he served to protect your freedom.

I am thinking of my father, Bob. He had a love of flying from his earliest days, and this propelled him into a career in the Air Force. I grew up with the knowledge that the only good pilots were fighter pilots, and I was glad to hear the sonic booms of fast-flying planes. That one could be my Dad’s plane! Shortly after completing his training for the F-4, he was called to serve away from home. His squadron was based in Thailand, but his flights took him over Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. On Bob’s twenty-third mission, his plane was shot up on the way to his bombing run, as was another F-4. After completing their bombing runs, the two planes headed back to base, looking for refueling tankers and safety. Bob’s airplane was leaking fuel badly and shortly would have flamed out over hostile territory. The pilot of the other F-4, Bob Pardo, suggested an untried feat that would later be known as
Pardo’s Push. Pardo managed to push the other damaged fighter jet for over ten minutes. He succeeded in pushing Bob’s airplane out of Vietnam airspace and into Laos. The four airmen ejected from their damaged, failing planes, and were picked up by a trained rescue crew. After recovering from his wounds from this mission, my father went back to complete one hundred missions. Bob, and the other three pilots involved in Pardo’s Push, were eventually awarded the Silver Star. You do not know him, but he served to protect your freedom

So today, when you see someone standing by the grocery store holding out some plastic poppies, shake that hero’s hand and thank him with all your heart for the service he gave so you could be free. And buy a poppy, and remember why they sell them today.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, Canadian Army
(pictured above)