“Freedom,” Ronald Reagan warned, “is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Although I’m a veteran from WW II and getting up in years I can still remember the “Great Depression Generation” of the 1930s and where we were on that fateful December 7, 1941 — a day that made my generation once again fight for “Freedom.”
I also remember that Veterans Day — November 11 — was originally referred to as “Armistice Day.” It was to “remember” that at 5 a.m. on the 11th of November 1918, Germany surrendered to the Americans who had helped to restore “Freedom” to Europe.
I “remember” when it was decided to re-name this “Veterans Day” in order to “remember” and honor all the men and women who served in our country’s armed forces, not only in World War I, but also in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq, and now Afghanistan.
However, I also remember to “Roll back the sands of time” to the 1930s when I grew up in Washington, D.C. near Fort Stevens, which was the closest that Confederate troops got to Washington.
I remember those years, with sadness, when there was no Veterans Day because we kids at that time had no desire to stop playing “war” in the trenches of that Fort just to hear some men speaking about their experiences in “their war” — the Civil War.
Today, I remember that both our Union Army and Confederate Army had volunteers in 1864-5 as young as 14 and 15 years old and in the 1930s those veterans who were then in their late 70s must have had exciting stories to tell.
Today I have time and reflect on the fact that as we honor our veterans, there will be those who ask, “What did those wars bring us, and was it worth it?”
Those Union Civil War veterans brought us a country free of slavery and preserved a United States of America. World War I veterans saved this world from Germany’s Kaiser and we in World War II defeated the armies of a German mad man named Hitler and those of the Emperor of Japan.
The United States has gone on to send troops for similar reasons to Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Libya, Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
To those who question why we fight to save the innocent people of those countries, Bernard Barauch gave them the answer when he pointed out the truth that, “we fight not to implant ourselves on foreign shores, but to come home; not to remain warlike but to return to war hating; not to impose our will upon others, but so we can continue governing ourselves as we wish. From neither the first or second World Wars did we take anything from some other people for our own enrichment.”
The truth of why we veterans are proud that we fought is also found in the following words from the song “God Bless the USA” — “From Detroit to Houston and New York to L.A. Well there’s pride in every American heart and its time we stand and say that I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free, and I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me.”
President Ronald Reagan, in a speech before students at Moscow State University speaking of the “Freedom” that our veterans fought to preserve said, “Freedom is the right to question the established way of doing things. The right to put forth an idea, scoffed at by the experts, and watch it catch fire among the people. It is the right to follow your dreams, even if you’re the only one in a sea of doubters.”
Veterans Day 2011 will find our fight for “Freedom” was well worth it and the song continued with these wonderful words: “And I’d gladly stand up — next to you and defend her still today, ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land — GOD BLESS THE USA!”
Mort Marks served in the Infantry in World War II. He is still fighting battles, but they are mostly along political lines these days. Marks is a Republican, lives in Arapahoe County, and is a prize-winning columnist.