Veterans Day, Nov. 11, is a day of thanksgiving. On Veterans Day, we
pay tribute to American citizen-soldiers who sacrificed for freedom in
our nation’s armed forces. A profound way to honor our nation’s
veterans is to preserve the fruits of their sacrifice — peace, freedom
and democracy — by maintaining a strong common defense.

Veterans, as well as our troops on active duty today, do not hope for
war. They do not want to send their children into the fiery crucible of
battle. Indeed, as far back as World War I, “The War to End All Wars,”
veterans fought so that future generations might never have to go to
war. Veterans and their families have learned firsthand that the only
way to deter war is to be prepared to fight.

The tradition we call Veterans Day began as Armistice Day in 1918, a
commemoration of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month when
World War I officially ended. Veterans Day must rekindle a national
passion to preserve, through strategic deterrence, the hard-fought peace
and freedom that veterans made possible throughout the 20th century.

Since 1918, the American people, and particularly generations of
citizen-soldiers, have learned that war is a result of failed foreign
policy. If we really want to honor our veterans, we should call our
members of Congress first thing tomorrow morning, insisting on an
adequate investment in the preservation of this nation’s freedom.

America must increase its military presence in Europe, not decrease
it, particularly as Germany prepares to downsize its military by 8,000
in the coming year and NATO looks to the U.S. to take up the slack. On
the other hand, spreading our downsized fighting force over 134
countries keeps our troops in an almost-constant state of deployment,
curtailing their training and family time.

Our troops must be well-equipped as well as well-trained for battle.
By increasing troop strength and replacing decommissioned naval ships,
aging military aircraft and antiquated armored vehicles, America will
forge peace through strength.

Our active-duty troops must be paid what they deserve, and,
accordingly, more members of the armed forces, and tested military
leaders, will undoubtedly prolong their careers. The 4.8 percent
military pay raise, for which The American Legion fought hard, is an
encouraging development. However, it is not enough! The pay increase
is one step in the right direction.

Military retirees on Tricare, older veterans on Medicare, indeed all
veterans, should be granted unconditional access to health care through
the Department of Veterans Affairs medical care system. Ultimately, many
more veterans, with a clear conscience, would then recommend military
service to their children and grandchildren, which would help turn
around critical recruiting deficits that currently exist.

A serious commitment to national defense; that is exactly what “We
the People,” especially our military troops, expect from the
administration and Congress. The American Legion continues to fight for
the interests of America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines because
military law prohibits them from organizing on their own behalf. I’m as
proud to be their advocate — their lawyer, if you will — as I am to
represent all veterans of our nation’s wars.

Once our elected officials in Washington have fully converted the
people’s national-security interests into reality, Veterans Day will be
as much a national rededication to preserving freedom as it is a
heartfelt thanks to those who have fought for freedom through their
service in the armed forces of the United States.

Idaho Attorney General Al Lance is national commander of the
2.8-million member American Legion, the
nation’s largest veterans organization.

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