The Veterans Day ceremonies and parades today will be marked by two different trends among their participants.

There will be fewer World War II vets than there were last year or the year before. The war that brought 12 million Americans into uniform (in a population then numbering just 140 million or so) ended 65 years ago, and its surviving veterans are now in their 80s or older.

What Korea and Vietnam vets remain will be a year grayer, too, but still their experiences recall the fading memories of the great world conflict we called the Cold War, which lasted from the 1940s to the 1990s, a Fifty Years’ War that ended, it seemed, almost overnight with the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union.

Its iconic scene is the destruction of the Berlin Wall, an image of freedom unleashed that washed away decades of dictatorship.

Now, however, the ranks of veterans are being built up again, with men and women in their late teens and 20s stepping forth in patterned camouflage with records that contain the names Kabul and Helmand Province, or Fallujah and Baghdad.

Still, too many times Americans have heard reports that wounded veterans from those conflicts have not received the best of care, but woefully inadequate treatment.

Outrage at such stories has in many cases led to improvements, but until each and every injured soldier is provided every bit of assistance his or her service entitles them to, this nation cannot consider itself fully grateful to those who served and suffered for it.

While the wars they served in have proved controversial, those who serve should not be blamed for that. Instead, they deserve the same credit and respect that is owed to anyone who leaves the comforts of home and family to endure separation and hardship or the risk of life and limb in combat in response to the call of duty.

Such sacrifice remains worthy of respect and honor. While many of those present at today’s ceremonies are veterans or their families, many others will be ordinary Americans whose peace and liberty have been guaranteed by those we honor today.

Such tributes are never inappropriate. In fact, they are the least that those who serve a grateful nation deserve today — and every day.


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