09-12 Bill with stocking

William F. Patrick

Sunday marks the 99th anniversary of Veterans Day, originally called Armistice Day. This year, more than ever, the nation needs to unite in honoring those who sacrificed and served.

It's not because Americans who serve in the military today suffer greater hardships than those who went before them. It's because we are a nation desperate for anything to bring us together.

Veterans Day, for the past 98 years, has fallen on a country that, though diverse by design, was populated by those who always found common ground in their pride as Americans.

Now, a year shy of its centennial, the holiday falls on a nation divided, the likes of which have not been seen since the U.S. Civil War.

We have become a nation torn asunder by race, class, political agendas, religion, wealth, or practically anything that can create a difference. We need a cause worthy of joining together in thanks and praise.

Our nation's veterans fit the bill.

The holiday we now know as Veterans Day was created after World War I. It recognized military members returning from the “Great War.” It reflected on the heroism of those who did not return.

Declared a national holiday in 1938, Veterans Day has become a Kaleidoscope of parades, flags, thanks, and togetherness.

More than 600,000 service members have died protecting and defending American lives and liberties.

Today, roughly two and a half million active duty and reserve duty military members serve, with tens of thousands deployed to “hot spots,” such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

I am a cold-war veteran – three years in the Marines and seven in the Navy. I can say, with the conviction of experience, that none of these brave men and women are giving up their present for a future of hate, back-biting, and division.

This Veterans Day, the heroes of today and yesterday need to be honored in a manner befitting their sacrifices.

We do that by abandoning hate and celebrating understanding. Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, Christian and Muslim, gay and straight, should unite in thanking our nation's veterans by representing what they have all fought for: A nation united.

Anything less, would be un-American.