There was something somberly fitting about the inconsistency among various government and private entities regarding when to observe the most recent Veterans’ Day, which fell on a Saturday this …
There was something somberly fitting about the inconsistency among various government and private entities regarding when to observe the most recent Veterans’ Day, which fell on a Saturday this year.
The day set aside to recognize and honor our nation’s military service members, past and present, became just another scheduling decision; a choice made in fluorescent-lit board rooms across the state and country without much consideration to the meaning behind that decision.
Perhaps it is also symbolic, or a contributing factor, that the increasingly precarious nature of our democracy’s stability is coinciding with the exponential and ever-increasing loss of our veteran population.
According to Census data, of the 16.6 million living veterans in America, nearly half are age 65 or older. Out of the some 16 million soldiers that survived service during World War II, only 183,000 still remain, with a median age of 93 (and only about 1,200 of them live in Rhode Island). Of course, the largest portion of that 16.6 million number comprises mostly veterans from Vietnam, who are also advancing in age rapidly. By 2025, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates there will be just 14,000 of them left in the Ocean State, while only 1,600 are likely to remain who fought in the Korean War.
The loss of these entire generations of soldiers will continue to signify the loss of a connection with older generations of America who understood a time when things were by no means perfect, but they were certainly more fundamentally stable than what we’re experiencing now.
A solider from 1960s Vietnam would certainly understand government upheaval — bearing witness to assassinations and the advent of the Cold War — but we highly doubt anyone from those older generations could imagine seeing a former president stand trial for multiple serious offenses, including all the way up to their role in trying to unseat a rightful transfer of power. We wager they would be sorely disappointed to see American citizens’ disdain for one another based solely off of political differences like we commonly see today.
While the reasons for degrading patriotism in America are numerous, we fear that as the last ranks of these old soldiers continue to vanish, we will lose a crucial thread that has kept our collective spirit for the maintenance and upkeep of the nation together. These veterans believed our nation was worth fighting for, and that’s a lesson we would be foolish to forget.