Recently, President Obama announced that American troops will be out of Iraq by year's end, a decision some will cheer and others will be unsure of what will fill our absence. Since soldiers first went to the far-away country to help prevent the growth of terrorism many things have changed. We have elected a new President. There are thousands of troops now on the ground in Afghanistan. Returning wounded and injured have filled military hospitals around our country and the number of soldiers who have died has continued to grow. The price to help keep our country safe has been terribly high. But freedom has always had a high price.
With the thousands of men and women who have served their country, it is unlikely they did so for the sole reason of being called a veteran. It is a title we have chosen to give service personal to remember and honor their service and sacrifices. We, as a country, rewarded them with the proud title of American Veteran. It would seem sometimes it may be their only reward after returning home.
The number of American veterans is constantly changing. Each day new young Americans are joining the ranks of the military to serve their country. Some join for patriotism, some for military duty, and for others it's because a job is hard to find in the private sector. Each day our country also loses many former service men and women to the passing of time.
Last spring, Frank Buckles passed away at the age of 110. He was the last surviving World War I veteran in our country. Buckles returned home to Charles Town, W.Va., after his military service. At the beginning of our involvement in the war in France our military was small. To bring civilians into the military, the government passed the Selective Service Act and drafted 2.8 million men. By the summer of 1918, 10,000 new American solders were going into France each day. Buckles was the last of those soldiers who served during the so called Great War.
For many, the memories of military service in World War II are still very real, even after nearly 70 years. Veterans were welcomed home with parades and thanks from a country weary of the costly war. The thousands of men and women came home to find jobs and build the American dream. In many ways we turned our country's strength from war to building a country for all. Military uniforms were traded for civilian clothes, jobs, and the title of veteran.
Our leaders called Korea a police action that began in 1950. Once again thousands of Americans were put in harm's way on the Korean Peninsula. It was not a war in the news or by government proclamation, but for those who served during the conflict, it was a war. In the end they came home to become more faces in the long list of war-weary veterans. The distant conflict saw no clear victory and peace was secured by a line on the map. In the summer of 1953 an Armistice was signed that is still in place.
Today after 60 years Americans and Koreans still stare with suspicion across a border near the 38th Parallel. Victory parades or celebrations for their many sacrifices in that Asian country were tempered by it being a political war, but not for those who served.
A few years later in 1955, a conflict began in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. By the early 1960s America was drawn into another war. In 1965 U.S. combat units were sent to Vietnam to stop the spread of communism. The unpopular war went on and a clear victory seemed impossible to find. By 1973 the fighting had stopped and the end finally came as the North Vietnamese army returned to Saigon in 1975. Over 50,000 soldiers died and many are still listed as missing in action. There were no parades or celebration for the thousands of returning soldiers. It seemed the country had turned its back on the many who were called to serve their country. The unpopular war seemed to fall onto the back of the returning American soldier.
In 1990, American soldiers were sent into the first Gulf War. The war lasted for 210 days. Families of the soldiers could watch live on TV as the war was fought, sometimes seemingly for the TV cameras. The short war was not fought by American soldiers alone in the desert sands. Thirty-four other countries took part in the war. Soldiers came home to parades and celebration all across our country.
After 9-11-2001, American soldiers went into Afghanistan to find a way to stop Al-Qaeda terrorists. Then in 2003 the US returned to Iraq to stop Saddam Hussein's sponsorship of terrorism. American soldiers are still in both countries today. President Obama has said by year's end soldiers will be out of Iraq. Hopes are that a stable democracy will grow as they come home.
Afghanistan has become one of the longest combat wars in our country's history. Answers to stop terrorism and find solution to stop its growth in this remote country have been long and costly. Many soldiers have seen multiple tours of duty and in that distant country the war goes on.
We tend to remember those who serve during the times of war and military conflict. But it is also important to remember all those who served in times of peace, few that there seem to be. All those who put on the uniform of their country are proud to have served.
This Friday, we as a country have set aside a day to remember those who have and are serving in the military. Each Veterans Day flags are held high and we each, hopefully, will remember those who serve.
There are no more veterans from the First World War to tell their stories. And each day numbers grow less of those who fought in the Second World War, Korea Conflict, and Vietnam, leaving fewer to tell of the war. The Gulf Wars and Afghanistan conflicts are still very much part of our daily lives.
We use the term veterans to describe anyone who has spent a long time working at something. We use that title this Nov. 11 to remember those who spent time in the service of our country. We also pause to remember there are many who gave all they possessed in life for this title. For all those who have served, your country is proud to honor you as an American Veterans as we look Thru the Lens.