America without soldiers is like God without angels

By Chuck Norris

With midterm election madness last week, ending with Veterans Day on Friday, I decided to postpone until this week my enthusiastic patriotic gratitude for our U.S. veterans in order to give them the recognition and honor they so deserve.

My wife, Gena, and I are not just pro-military and pro-veteran, but we come from a long lineage of those who have served our country and showed continuous gratitude for those who do.

My father fought in World War II at the Battle of the Bulge. I served four years in the Air Force in South Korea, and my brother Aaron served in the Army on the Korean demilitarized zone. Our brother, Wieland, was killed in action in Vietnam when he walked point alone and drew out enemy fire so that others in his platoon could fight their way out to freedom. Many souls were saved on that day because of my brother’s bravery. (My mom wrote a chapter on each of us and our military service – and for the first time tells Wieland’s war story at length – in her autobiography, “Acts of Kindness: My Story.”)

Do you know these facts about U.S. veterans?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2018):

  • The number of veterans in the United States declined by a third, from 26.4 million to 18 million between 2000 and 2018.
  • There are fewer than 500,000 World War II veterans alive today, down from 5.7 million in 2000.
  • Women make up a growing share of veterans. Today, about 9% of veterans – or 1.7 million – are women. By 2040, that number is projected to rise to 17%.
  • The largest cohort of veterans alive today served during the Vietnam Era (6.4 million), which lasted from 1964 to 1975. The second-largest cohort of veterans served during peacetime only (4 million).
  • The median age of veterans today is 65 years. By service period, post-9/11 veterans are the youngest, with a median age of about 37, Vietnam Era veterans have a median age of about 71, and World War II veterans are the oldest, with a median age of about 93.

For those who might not know, Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. (“Armistice” is an agreement by opposing forces to stop war fighting.)

In 1926, Congress passed a resolution to make Nov. 11 an annual observance.

In 1938, Nov. 11 became a national holiday.

In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation that changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day, to honor those who served in all American wars.

It’s interesting to note that, in 1968, Congress changed Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October so that federal employees would have another three-day weekend. But in 1975, President Gerald Ford changed the date back to Nov. 11 because of its initial importance.

A common misunderstanding about Veterans Day is how it is confused with Memorial Day. That is why it is important for citizens to realize Veterans Day falls on Nov. 11 and honors living servicemen and servicewomen, while Memorial Day is commemorated on the fourth Monday in May and honors those who have died in service of our country or resulting from injuries thereof.

As far as caring for aging veterans, history.com highlights a few noteworthy facts: “The VA health care system had 54 hospitals in 1930, since then it has expanded to include 171 medical centers; more than 350 outpatient, community, and outreach clinics; 126 nursing home care units; and 35 live-in care facilities for injured or disabled vets.”

A 1946 Gallup poll revealed back then that most veterans – WWI (75%) and WWII (69%) – believed the U.S. government had given them sufficient help. What’s interesting is that WWI non-injured combat vets were given “little more than a $60 allowance and a train ticket home,” according to the Veteran’s Affairs Department. With the GI Bill becoming law in 1944, however, additional benefits for vets included education, job training, unemployment compensation, and guaranteed home and business loans.

As fascinating as all that history is, honoring veterans isn’t about knowledge but homage. It isn’t about bottling up our patriotic gratitude in just one or two days of the year, but giving thanks every day. It isn’t about looking at your neighbor’s Stars and Stripes but posting Old Glory with pride on your own home. It isn’t about merely saluting from afar those who served but shaking the hands of those who valiantly sacrificed their time and lives for our republic.

I agree with President John F. Kennedy, who said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

America also needs to re-esteem military recruitment and enlistment.

Please, pass along your contagious patriotism by educating others (and especially your posterity) about U.S. veterans. Whether you pass them in the streets or airports, as often as they are in your presence, shake the hands of those who are serving or have served our country as you say with enthusiasm and sincerity, “Thanks for your service!”

On behalf of millions of Americans, Gena and I salute all who serve and have served our great country and the cause of freedom. And we pray daily for those who continue to put themselves in harm’s way, including at this very moment.

Award-winning author and proud member of the Military Writers Society of America, Claudia Terry Pemberton, put it best, and her words can be easily adopted to include every branch of military personnel: “America without her soldiers would be like God without his angels.”

(To arouse the patriotic spirit in you and your loved ones, I encourage you to watch “Modern Warriors” on FOX Nation (www.FoxNation.com). I also encourage you to read the insightful and inspiring patriotic books of David Bellavia, a Medal of Honor Recipient for his actions during the Second Battle of Fallujah.)


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