In the last sentence of the book "The Greatest Generation," Tom Brokaw writes ". . . No block of marble or elaborate edifice can equal their lives of sacrifice and achievement, duty and honor, as monuments to their time."
Brokaw's book refers to World War II veterans, but his words equally apply to the 24 million veterans living among us. They are living examples of sacrifice, honor and duty to their country.
On this Veterans Day, it is only natural to think about the men and women serving in harm's way in the Middle East. Regardless how one feels about the Iraqi War and ongoing efforts in Afghanistan, the troops deserve the nation's support. One fitting tribute to our service members would be to assist a military family by doing some odd jobs, taking over a meal or offering to baby-sit the kids so the spouse of the service member can have a few hours to relax or recreate.
If you don't know a service member, take a few minutes to send an encouraging word to a man or woman in uniform who very much needs encouragement from home. Go to www.americasupportsyou.mil, a Web site created by the Department of Defense. It will send a letter to a soldier instantly.
On Veterans Day, we are also mindful of our aging veterans. The Veteran's Administration estimates that World War II vets now number about 3.9 million. More than 1,000 of them die each day, which is worse than the casualty rate they experienced during the war. These men and women are now at an age when their health is of a great concern. Congress must see to it that facilities that serve America's veterans are adequately funded, well equipped and staffed with competent and caring physicians, nurses, therapists and other care givers.
Beyond health care, Congress must go to great lengths to ensure that veterans who are entitled to certain benefits are not mired in bureaucracy. They deserve better.
Lastly, those of us who know veterans or have veterans in our families owe it to them and, frankly, ourselves, to capture their histories. Thanksgiving gatherings would provide the natural opportunity for veterans to share the stories of their service, whether in World War II, Korea, Vietnam or the Middle East. These personal histories should be written down or captured on video or audio tape for the benefit of future generations. It would be a small but fitting tribute to men and women who have selflessly given so much of themselves to defend freedom and for the love of their country.