I hope that everyone who reads this has a special place in their hearts for veterans. Without their service and sacrifices and the dedication of those in uniform today America would not be free.
Some veterans share stories about how their service changed their lives; others keep memories of war experiences tucked deep inside. All veterans fought for something greater than themselves - to protect freedom and the innocent by defeating tyranny and terrorism - and they have literally changed the world for the better.
Older veterans who fought in World War II and Korea stand proud of their service that thwarted the plans of evil rulers. Vietnam veterans, despite having to fight a battle back home to protect their reputation, bravely and effectively fought in Southeast Asia to hold back communism. (For the record and from a military standpoint, America did not lose the Vietnam War as was noted in the memoirs of a top North Vietnamese Army General. The General noted that his army was near defeat when the tide of war shifted due to wavering public opinion in America). Veterans of Desert Shield/Desert Storm defeated Saddam Hussein's attempt to take over Kuwait and to control much of the world's oil supply. Our youngest combat veterans rallied strong after the 9-11-01 terror attacks on American soil and their comrades continue to battle terrorists where they live and train, much to the appreciation of Afghanistan and Iraqi citizens who enjoy their new found freedom.
There are veterans of Special Forces and other fast reaction teams who served in lesser known missions to keep America and global democracies safe. The presence of millions of veterans on active duty during the Cold War and those who never deployed during war time kept more wars from breaking out. Case in point: one of the reasons that the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s ended peacefully was because the Soviet Union knew that any offensive strike on America during the Bay of Pigs standoff could have resulted in the destruction of its major cities and military installations back in the USSR.
As we recognize Veteran's Day 2010 on Thursday, I hope you join the PA VFW in showing great respect and high honor to veterans of all ages. No one segment of our nation's population has been asked to do more for their country than veterans. In fact, our veterans have secured a peaceful future for many other nations across the world. Still today, ceremonies are held in many regions in Europe to honor the American veterans who liberated their towns.
The PA VFW shares this poem with Pennsylvanians as we recognize Veteran's Day to give citizens an accurate measure of veterans' contributions to America:
It is the veteran, not the preacher,
who has given you freedom of religion.
It is the veteran, not the reporter,
who has given you freedom of the press.
It is the veteran, not the poet,
who has given you freedom of speech.
It is the veteran, not the liberal protesters,
who has given you freedom to assemble.
It is the veteran, not the lawyer,
who has given you the right to a fair trial.
It is the veteran, not the politician,
who has given you the right to vote.
It is the veteran, who salutes the Flag,
and who serves under the Flag.
Let us salute all veterans and those in the military for their courage and commitment - they are all American patriots. Let us also remember that their families have made enormous sacrifices to support their loved one as he or she answered the call to defend America and to preserve democracy worldwide. Give them all a heartfelt, "Thanks for my freedom."
The author of this commentary is PA VFW State Commander Benjamin Mastridge of Trevose, a veteran of the Vietnam War. You can reach him at or through the PA VFW's web site, www.vfwpahq.org.