Remembering Veterans, Past and Present

This past weekend MSU, and most of the nation, enjoyed an extra day of rest. This was of course the federally observed holiday, Veteran’s Day. Veteran’s Day coincides with Armistice Day and Remembrance Day in other nations and historically represents the armistice between the Allies and Germany in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, which ended World War I.  Veteran’s Day (called Armistice Day in the United States until 1954) was made an official federal holiday in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson. In proclaiming the holiday he said, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn 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.”

These are powerful words, the meaning of which may seem far from the comfortable peace the United States has so long enjoyed. For some Americans, however, these words still ring true. This weekend also saw another historically significant anniversary. For the last time, the surviving Doolittle Raiders gathered together to toast their fallen comrades.

For those a little rusty on their history, the Doolittle Raiders (named for the commanding officer of the raid) were a group of U.S. Army Air Force pilots and crewmen who lead the first air raid on the Japanese home islands following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Sixteen B-52B bombers were launched with a crew of five men each, bound for Tokyo. This daring attack should have been a guaranteed death wish. Against all odds, the brave men of this mission showed the Japanese that the U.S. was far from beaten, and that we would bring the fight to them, no matter the circumstance. Of the 80 men in the mission, 11 were captured or killed. Every year since, the surviving raiders have gathered to toast their fallen comrades.

As the remaining four survivors are all in their nineties, 2013 is the last year they will gather. One of the four is Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, of Missoula, Mont. According the Missoulian, he said the raid was: “only one of many bombing missions.” He demonstrates that, despite recognition for great bravery, he was only doing his job, a sentiment shared by many servicemen and women.

Less than 1 percent of Americans serve in the Armed Forces today, and they join on their own free will. Conflicts involving the United States have become more and more controversial, but there are always those who answer the call, regardless of whether or not they agree with the mission. This demonstrates great personal sacrifice, showing that our Armed Forces put the decided needs of our nation above their own convictions.

Even this weekend, as America took an extra day off, there were men and women overseas. It was just another day at the office for them, fighting a forgotten war for an unclear mission. Please remember the meaning of Veteran’s Day, the sacrifice it honors. Not just the sacrifice of our fathers and father’s fathers, such as Thatcher’s, but the continuing sacrifice of our men and women overseas today.