EDITORIAL – Say thanks to a veteran

It’s been a century since the last Virginians who fought in World War I came home. Veterans Day — which will be celebrated Thursday — gives us an opportunity to thank those who have served America in our military.

Unlike Memorial Day, which honors those who have died while serving their country, Veterans Day, which was previously known as Armistice Day, marks the service of all U.S. military veterans.

In fact, it was on Nov. 11, 1919 — the first Armistice Day after WWI hostilities ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month a year earlier — that President Woodrow Wilson expressed what the day means to Americans.

In a message to the country, he wrote, “To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.”

At the urging of veteran organizations, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

According to the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, there were approximately 722,000 living veterans in the state at the end of 2020. That’s the seventh most nationwide. When computed as a percentage of the total population, Virginia ranks second nationally, behind only Alaska.

The majority of Virginia veterans — about 55% — served in the Gulf War era and post-Sept. 11, including in Afghanistan. Roughly 25% served in the Vietnam era. Just 7,000 World War II veterans were still alive statewide when 2020 drew to a close. Some 27,500 Korean War veterans were still living.

Regardless of their era, all veterans deserve our appreciation, for their sacrifices are the reason we enjoy the freedoms and liberties we have today.

Please take a moment in the coming days to thank a local military veteran for his or her service to our country

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