Without a day off from work or a slew of barbecues, Wednesday is likely to be just another weekday. But this Wednesday, Veterans Day, is different. It is a day we should all pause to remember the sacrifices made by those sworn to protect us.
The commemoration does not receive nearly as much recognition as Memorial Day, which has unfortunately become more focused on the three-day weekend than memorializing our fallen. This Wednesday, we should strive for change.
It is because of our veterans that we continue to enjoy our many freedoms. Without our brave soldiers in World War II Hitler would likely have conquered all of Europe. Our soldiers have fought and died for the ideals of freedom and justice since the Revolutionary War.
In recent years, “Support our troops” has become a catchphrase associated with bumper stickers and political conservatives. In Iraq, as in Vietnam, we find ourselves in an unpopular war that seems to have no end in sight. Meanwhile, the war in Afghanistan, which has always had more popular support, has become a similar quagmire.
Whether or not we agree with the reasons behind the Iraq war, the fact remains that we are there now. Arguing about its causes will not bring our troops home quicker or more safely. We should instead unite and encourage our leaders to find the best way to accomplish what we can and bring our soldiers back.
This does not mean cut and run. We are responsible for the situation in Iraq and we must act that way. We should work with the Afghani and Iraqi governments to orchestrate an exit strategy that will not leave them at the mercy of thugs, while also pushing them to take responsibility for themselves.
That’s on the larger scale. Locally, there is much we can do to thank our soldiers. We can volunteer at veterans’ hospitals and with other programs affecting them. We can send donations to organizations advocating for veterans’ rights and care. We can send letters and other small gifts to soldiers. On Sunday, congregants at the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Cong. B’nai Israel prepared care packages for soldiers serving overseas as part of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey’s annual Mitzvah Day.
Let’s not let this Veterans Day pass by without expressing our gratitude to those who have sacrificed so much for us. We owe them more than a simple “thank you” but we can at least start with that. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – www.va.gov – has information on veterans’ groups and how to get involved.