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Honor a vet; say thank you

“We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from ourselves. From our life. We were 18 and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces.”

— Erich Maria Remarque,

All Quiet on the Western Front

Veterans Day started out as Armistice Day, set aside to honor those who fought in “the Great War,” World War I. That was the setting for the novel quoted above, “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Author and veteran Erich Maria Remarque became the unofficial spokesman for a generation “destroyed by war, even though it might have escaped its shells.”

World War I ended nearly a century ago, and Remarque’s German perspective is foreign to us in more ways than one. But who can deny that war exacts an awful price on the men and women who take up arms for their country? Who can deny that even those who emerge unscathed are nevertheless changed for life?

Today, the people of the United States say thank you to all who have served our country in the armed forces, even if they never saw combat, even if they never left U.S. soil. They committed themselves to do whatever the country asked of them, and that itself is a sacrifice.

Millions of men and women have proudly worn U.S. uniforms. After World War II, then-President Dwight Eisenhower expanded the Veterans Day observance to include all veterans — and they are legion. Of the roughly 319 million people who live in the United States, the Census Bureau estimates 21.8 million are veterans. They span several generations, from the 1.71 million World War II veterans who are still living to 2.5 million who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. How can we adequately convey our gratitude?

Honor them: Veterans Day activities in Rowan County start with a ceremony at 10 a.m. today in Building 6 of the Hefner VA Medical Center. VFW Post 3006 is holding a luncheon to honor veterans from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., after which there will be a parade on the VA campus. The parade will also go through downtown Salisbury at 2:30.

Hire them: Between 25 and 30 businesses will have representatives at a job fair Thursday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the West End Plaza, formerly the Salisbury Mall. The Veterans Appreciation and Community Job Fair is for anyone trying to find work, but veterans looking for work are especially urged to come.

Thank them. Showing respect for veterans and the rights they fought to preserve may be the greatest thanks. But it doesn’t hurt to utter those two words — “thank you.”

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