Editor's Note: Harold "Hal" Cummings, a decorated Army veteran of the Vietnam War era, Vernon's town attorney and Republican Town Committee chairman was asked to compose a commentary piece in Veterans Day.
At 6:50 AM on the morning of Nov. 11, 1918, the following message was sent to the British armies:
"Hostilities will cease at 11 hours today, November 11th … Troops will stand fast on the line reached at that hour …"
So ended the "Great War" of 1914 to 1918, the "War to end all Wars."
Unfortunately, it didn't.
Many historians believe that the Second World War (1939 to 1945) was really World War I, Part 2. Since then America has experienced the Korean War, the Vietnam War, two wars in Iraq, the continuing one in Afghanistan and numerous "local" conflicts that have flared up along the way.
Historians and politicians can debate all day long whether or not these wars could have been avoided, but, the reality is that, for those of us who fought in them, they did happen. War seems to be part of the human condition.
As a Vietnam veteran and a member of both the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, I can attest to the fact that neither I, nor any other veteran I ever met is in favor of, or loves war. On the contrary, having "been there done that" we are adverse to war.
Having said that, if called upon again, most of us would respond next time, just as we did the first time. We responded to our country's call, no matter how we felt about the particular conflict.
For that reason, regardless of how the rest of society feels about war in general, or any specific war, it is fitting and proper for that society to recognize and thank those who did serve. More importantly, it should remember and honor those who died serving their country with appropriate memorials.
For the rest of us, who were fortunate enough to come home alive, a simple, "thank you for your service," is sufficient.
Setting aside a special day - Nov. 11 - is a good way to say that "Thank you," to acknowledge the contributions made by all fought in all of our wars, first to create our nation and then to preserve the freedoms it stands for.
- Harold R Cummings, Lt. Col. (ret) U.S. Army