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EDITORIAL: Every day should be Veterans Day

| November 10, 2023 1:00 AM

Today there are fewer than 119,500 surviving World War II veterans who were among the 16.1 million who served their country. All the survivors are in their 90s or older. It will indeed be a sad day when the last of these warriors passes on.

In the Korean War (1950-55), 6.8 million American men and women served worldwide. In 2020, about 1 million were still alive. By 2030, fewer than 200,000 are expected to survive.

As the last waves of World War II and Korean War heroes come to shore, the next waves of heroes will be foremost in their grateful nation’s consciousness. These are the men and women who served in the Vietnam War, and if you pay attention, you’ll see a fair share right here in Kootenai County.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Vietnam War was our country’s “longest and costliest conflict of the Cold War.” More than 8.7 million people served in our Armed Forces from 1964 to 1973. More than 3.4 million of them were deployed to Southeast Asia, DVA reports, with 2.7 million serving in the Republic of Vietnam.

How many are alive today? Estimates range widely, but several sources peg the number at fewer than 850,000 of those who served in Vietnam — less than a third.

According to a 2021 Pew Research report, 7.8 million men and women served the U.S. in the Gulf War era, so even more waves of heroes passing reach our shores, with larger waves all but assured as time goes by.

When will it end? With war raging in Ukraine and the Middle East, with global tensions reaching the boiling point, American military casualties may never match the staggering numbers seen in the previous four wars, but loss of lives is virtually assured.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, which differs principally from Memorial Day in that Nov. 11 honors all veterans, while Memorial Day is dedicated to those who died in service to our nation. And yet, two days out of 365 simply is not enough to pay adequate tribute to those whose courage and commitment have kept the United States of America the land of the free, keeping alive the vision of George Washington when he labored to create a permanent army during his service as our country’s first president.

How you choose to honor our veterans is of course a personal choice. Just remember that every one of them is owed a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.

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