Many of us recall the words of John Fitzgerald Kennedy: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
At this time, we pay special tribute to our American veterans and to all of our current armed service personnel. They are to never be forgotten. We are indebted to them, and we salute them for their extraordinary bravery and noble sacrifice. And to their loved ones, we express heartfelt tribute as well.
The story of America has been written, in large part, by the selfless and noble deeds of hard-working and dedicated men and women committed to liberty and justice in a free society. Our American Veterans and Service Personnel are, among others, truly endemic of that ranking. We commemorate Veterans' Day to honor the men and women who have served in our Armed Forces.
We pay tribute to them for their virtuous defense of our homeland and liberty, and thank them for their sacrifice on our behalf. As General Norman Schwarzkopf often quipped, "It doesn't take a hero to order people into battle, it takes a hero to be one of those individuals who go into battle."
Indeed, the legions of those who served in the past and who are currently serving help to preserve the dignity of a free society. Their dedication to duty is the springboard which supports freedom.
The great American story is that we, as a society, are able to govern ourselves and our wrongs are able to be controlled by balances of power. Truly, our veterans represent freedom at its best and liberty at its finest.
They are our national heroes and warriors. The cost of freedom is not purchased in a lump sum. It is paid in installments by our veterans and members of our armed services. What Winston Churchill said of the Royal Air Force is true of our veterans and our heritage, "Never before have so few, done so much, for so many."
On Nov. 11, 1918, at 11 a.m., the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the Armistice was signed which ended the First World War. Thereafter, Nov. 11 was celebrated as Armistice Day. After World War II, that date became known as Veterans Day and we are proud on that date and every day to honor all who served and are serving our country.
Over the course of our history, some 42 million Americans have served - and more than one million have given the supreme sacrifice - so that we and future generations of Americans might live in freedom. We, as Americans, are the beneficiaries of their noble courage, unselfish sacrifice and untiring dedication; and so, too, are countless of freedom-loving people around the world.
President Kennedy once said, "Democracy is never a final achievement. It is a call to untiring effort, to continual sacrifice and to the willingness, if necessary, to die in its defense." We give thanks to the veterans and to the current members of our Armed Forces for showing that willingness. Whether serving on bases and in ports at home or deployed across the globe, they have endured hardship and danger to protect our nation and to defend freedom loving people around the world. Their deeds of commitment and valor bind us to our past, inspire us in the present, and strengthen us to meet the demanding challenges of the future. George Patton was known to have said "it is wrong for us to mourn the loss that died in battle. Rather we should thank God that such individuals had lived." And so, as a former U.S. Marine ... SEMPER FIDELIS ... always be faithful!
Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Fredonia and distinguished professor at Capella University in Minneapolis, MN. All of the past columns can be viewed on Send comments to: Rheich@aol.com