On Veterans Day, our nation pays tribute to those who served this country by taking up arms, willing to defend to the death our life, liberty and sacred honor. Whether they served in peacetime or war, we honor veterans and remember their sacrifice and dedication.
The holiday is celebrated on Nov. 11 because it was on the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” in 1918 that the carnage of World War I came to its official end. In Santa Fe, it is customary to parade around the Plaza with a ceremony to follow at the Bataan Memorial; the parade begins at 10 a.m.
First known as Armistice Day, the name was changed to Veterans Day in 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, himself a former five-star general and commander leading the D-Day invasion in World War II. For a short time — from 1971 until 1975 — Veterans Day was celebrated on the fourth Monday in October, part of the 1968 Uniform Holidays Bill passed by Congress. President Gerald Ford returned the holiday to its original date, though, recognizing the historical importance of Nov. 11. It’s just happenstance that this Veterans Day of 2019 is on a Monday.
On this Veterans Day, we should also remember the men and women still fighting overseas — slogging through endless conflicts that the United States has not found a way to exit honorably. We think of the veterans home from recent wars, troubled by what they saw in Iraq and Afghanistan and surely wondering whether their sacrifice was worthwhile.
We remember, too, the veterans of World War II, who are leaving us. All too soon, we will have no living witnesses to that bloody conflict. Those who served in Korea, too, are dying. Their battles soon will be relegated to history books and documentaries, with living testimony hard to come by.
That’s why The Santa Fe New Mexican took the time to ask the living veterans of Vietnam — the war that so divided this country — to tell their stories, which you can read by picking up “In Country,” available in today’s newspaper.
There, you will find the stories of men so young that they likely didn’t need to shave when they were sent to Vietnam. You will read of the heroics of Francis Xavier Nava, the first boy from Santa Fe to die in the war, meet family members who lost loved ones and read — in their own words — the stories of those long-ago warriors.
The war in Vietnam was echoed in the battles fought at home, a division that lingers today. Some 57,000 veterans of Vietnam still live in New Mexico, their lives forever changed by what they did and what they saw. You will meet some of them reading “In Country.” Take the time to absorb their stories, to recognize their sacrifice.
Through understanding, we honor them.