Veterans promise transcends generations

Today, we will once again commemorate the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 marking the formal end of World War I. This day observed annually, once known as “Armistice Day,” was renamed in 1954 and is now known to all as Veterans Day. There will be ceremonies and services throughout the country to honor our veterans, and all of us who served will be thanked time and again.

As a retired service member and director of Veterans Service for Chautauqua County, I’ve dedicated my life to the men and women who served, and I want to share why I say thank you to my brothers and sisters at arms regardless of the circumstances of their service.

We come from all walks of life and all corners of the United States. Some stories end as Commanding Generals leading thousands, while others will end after a brief time with a few harrowing tales and a little money for school. For a few, the story ends bravely yet tragically on the battlefield, at sea, or in the air fulfilling the promise that binds all who served. I don’t thank veterans for the era in which they served, their branch of service, or the rank they attained. I thank veterans for the promise they made.

Whether it’s a skilled surgeon at 38 years old commissioning as a Field Grade Officer or an 18-year-old fresh out of school enlisting at the bottom of the pay scale, their promise to our nation is the same. Since the first oath under the Constitution approved by Act of Congress in 1789 our service members have raised their right hands and solemnly swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

With this promise all who serve know they are, “Americans fighting in the forces that guard their country and way of life, and are prepared to give their lives in our nation’s defense.” Fortunately, most veterans will never have to make the ultimate sacrifice, but the promise made to do so is why we say thank you. I’d imagine those who swore in on Dec. 6, 1941, had no idea what Dec. 7, 1941, would bring, nor did those who raised their right hand on Sept. 10, 2001 know what Sept. 11, 2001, would bring.

But nearly 60 years separated those veterans who shared the same promise to defend our way of life. Veterans who served in Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and during times of peace all swore the very same oath, and made the same promise to their countrymen with no one greater than the other.

We’re rapidly approaching 2018, and next year’s new crop of troops will be the first born in this millennium. A new generation will take the oath and serve, and I will thank them for their service because their promise to defend our way of life transcends. So on this Veterans Day and every day I say heartfelt thank you to all my brothers and sisters at arms!

Gregory Carlson is a retired service member and director of Veterans Service for Chautauqua County.