There’s a reason Veterans Day is today, Nov. 11.
That reason should be burned into the memory of every American, but sadly it is not, so to reprise: On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month of 1918, World War I came to an end after four years of bloodshed that claimed 20 million lives, including around 117,000 Americans, despite the fact that the American Expeditionary Force was engaged in combat for only 200 days.
The date quickly became on observance to “The War to End All Wars.” Unfortunately, that title was completely, breathtakingly wrong, and what was known as Armistice Day turned into Veterans Day as wars continued.
According to the U.S. Census 2019 ACS 5-Year Survey, Jackson County is home to more than 3,000 veterans, most, over 1,400, from the Vietnam era. Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan veteran numbers aren’t far behind, while more than 300 veterans saw service in Korea. World War II veteran numbers are well below 100 as time has taken its toll on that cohort, which once numbered in the millions across the country.
Gulf-era veteran numbers nationwide surpassed those of Vietnam-era veterans in 2016.
The numbers of veterans are shrinking, as is their share of the population. According to the Pew Research Center in 1980, nearly 20 percent of U.S. adults were veterans. That was down to around 7 percent as of 2018. The bulk of those veterans served either in Vietnam (5.9 million) and in the Gulf War era (7.9 million), dating from August 1990 to the present.
Today honors every single one of them, all who served and are serving to let the rest of us live in peace.
One day isn’t enough to do them justice. So the least we can do is make the “official” day we do one they remember.
One good way is to show up at the Veterans Parade today (Thursday) in Sylva. The parade will line up at 2 p.m. and kick off at 3 p.m. This year’s Grand Marshall is Jason Ashe, a U.S. Air Force veteran who served from 2000-06 in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) and Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom). The parade will originate at Mark Watson Park and travel east to the intersection of Main and Mill streets. The parade will turn onto Mill Street and proceed west back to Mark Watson Park. Traffic will be routed to Municipal Drive during the parade. Roads will be closed starting at 3 p.m.
We’ll be glad to see the veterans. We know they’ll be glad to see us.
If you can’t make the parade, or even if you do, there’s one more thing we can do:
Seek out a veteran and say thanks.
That offer isn’t limited to Thursday. It’s good all year.