By Heather Randall
“For such arrangements and covenants we are willing to fight and to continue to fight until they are achieved; but only because we wish the right to prevail and desire a just and stable peace….” – President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points (January 8, 1918).
There are 23.2 million military veterans in the United States today (www.History.com).
Although I’m certain I’ve encountered only a few compared to most of you reading this
post, I believe President Wilson’s thoughts are indicative of what’s in the hearts and
minds of our veterans today.
As we celebrate Veterans this week, I’m grateful for opportunities to reflect upon,
and better understand, the bravery and heroism of millions who served and fought
honorably for this great nation. Just yesterday, I met Ed, a U.S. military veteran who
lives in the same assisted living community as my father. As I listened to Ed tell me his
story of being stationed in Alaska during the 1940’s, I thought to myself how wonderful
it is (and how lucky I am) that men like Ed are alive and willing to share real stories of
courage and valor.
Ed continued his story, but paused to say, “Heather, I didn’t want to stay here [the U.S.],
I wanted to be overseas, on the front lines.” This wasn’t the first time I heard a veteran
or a military service member proclaim his or her desire to enter combat for our country.
My grandfather, a First Lieutenant, U.S Army Corps of Engineers, camped in France in
1918, wrote in his diary (November 11, 1918), “…it is frightfully depressing…not to have
fought at the front. I am very much disappointed.” Of course, this was the day President
Woodrow Wilson signed the armistice.
Although the military drafted so many of our veterans, I’ve never heard one say he or
she didn’t want to fight and contribute to protect our great nation. I’m always amazed at,
and thankful for, the mindset of our veterans – an unyielding dedication to serving our
country. My father, a former U.S. Air Force pilot, told me, “I wanted to go…” referencing
his desire to protect our country during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Strapped into his F-
105 at Florida’s McCoy Air Force Base, he anxiously waited for President Kennedy’s
direction to begin combat over Cuba. (Ironically, he would later pilot that same plane as
a member of the flyover during President Kennedy’s funeral.)
Last week, I watched “Judgment at Nuremberg”, the 1961 American film, which tells
the story of the Post-World War II Nuremberg Trials. The movie reminded me of horrific
moments in the history of many nations and the devastation and death faced by our
WWII veterans. Inspired, I took my father to see, “Lincoln”, director Steven Spielberg’s
most recent account of constitutional and military history. From “Band of Brothers”
to “The Pacific”, and now to “Lincoln”, Mr. Spielberg uses his talents to educate us
about the lives of young men and women who sacrificed their limbs and lives, their
comfort and families, to ensure freedoms that all Americans enjoy today.
As a female civilian, who never served in the military, I can’t imagine what it’s like to
hunker down in a foxhole, the wounded and dying to my left, and artillery firing at me
from the right. I can, however, seek opportunities to learn from our veterans and show
them my appreciation for their service.
To celebrate this Veterans Day, take the time to hear a veteran’s story and thank him
or her for their commitment to our country. Read a little U.S. military history or watch a
historical documentary on the subject. It’s only by understanding and learning from our
history that the United States will maintain peace, freedom and American values in the
Check out our Boot Campaign Home Page to learn more about how you can show
your appreciation for our veterans and cultivate awareness of the challenges so many
continue to face upon returning home.