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Grateful to those who served before and those who I have served beside

Twenty-twenty has been a strange and tough year.

But, throughout the chaos and uncertainty that we’ve all experienced over the last several months, there are some things that have remained steadfast. The unwavering dedication, patriotism and sacrifice of the men and women who have served and are serving in our Armed Forces is on that list.

Veterans Day 2020 will look a little different than most years. With COVID-19 restrictions in place, there won’t be a parade down Washington Street, and the annual downtown Rose Garden ceremony was filmed in advance. But with the traditional pomp and circumstance out of the picture, how exactly should we go about recognizing and honoring the many who have served our nation?

Understanding our history is key to appreciating our veterans. During World War I, known at the time as “The Great War,” a ceasefire agreement was declared on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to stop fighting between the Allied nations and Germany. A year later, President Woodrow Wilson commemorated that moment with the country’s first Armistice Day. In 1954, Armistice Day morphed into Veterans Day, recognizing all Americans who sacrificed to keep our nation safe from conflict.

I have long believed that the secondary mission of our Armed Forces is to provide future civilian leaders for our Nation. The bedrock of our military is selfless service. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen learn from their first days in basic training and boot camp that it is not about them as individuals. We are trained to switch our thoughts from “I have rights” to “I have responsibilities” and we transition to being members of a team that exists to protect our nation. I take great pride in knowing that the veterans throughout our community continue to take on additional responsibilities to protect the rights of others.   

From the right to vote to the right to protest and worship freely, veterans are responsible for attaining and defending the freedoms that we enjoy today.  As Americans, it is our privilege to exercise these rights in respect and appreciation of those who protect them.

So, this year, in gratitude to the 20 million living veterans in the United States and in honor of so many who have passed on, let us proudly understand and exercise both our responsibilities and our rights. I encourage you to pause and reflect on their sacrifices.

For those of you who know a veteran, reach out to them. One phone call, one text message, or even one “thank you for your service” (from a six-foot distance) could be just what a veteran needs to remember our nation’s appreciation for his or her sacrifice.

I am proud to serve; but I am even more grateful for those who have served before and alongside me, even if there’s no parade this year to show my gratitude.

 

Col. Teresa Schlosser

Commander, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center

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