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Our view: Honoring our veterans

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The North Forsyth High School JROTC Honor Guard walks in the Veterans Day parade on Saturday along Fourth Street in Winston-Salem.

Take a moment today, Veterans Day, to pause and have a thought for the military veterans among us, millions of them, who sacrificed their safety and security for ours; who fought so that we could live in peace. Whether the dwindling remnant of forces that went abroad to fight in World War II, veterans of the Korean or Vietnam conflicts, or those who traveled to Iraq or Afghanistan following 9/11, they deserve our respect.

Winston-Salem hosted a Veterans Day parade last Saturday — an opportunity to show our veterans that we remember them. We’ll also demonstrate our respect today by closing city, county, state and federal offices, including public schools, in their honor. Some private businesses will honor the veterans in special ways.

Operation Green Light is currently underway and will continue through Sunday, during which the Forsyth County Government Center as well as the 60-foot-tall granite obelisk at the Carolina Field of Honor at Triad Park will be bathed in green light in honor of veterans.

“We would love for our citizens to put a green light in an outside bulb or window,” Forsyth County Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt, a supporter, told the Journal earlier this week. “It’s a simple way to say thank you and show that we are grateful to our vets.”

Military service calls dedicated men and women from all walks of life in America — and some from other countries — who serve regardless of race, religion, gender or economic circumstances. They teach us that those superficial characteristics don’t matter when we’re united for a worthy cause.

The democratic elections we just held, mostly free of violence and coercion, are one example of the benefits of the American way of life for which our veterans give themselves.

Though they give their all, America has not always given enough in return. Veterans returning from war often bear the scars, physical, emotional and mental, of witnessing the worst depravity of mankind. Adjusting to civilian life can be difficult. Though the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, VFW and volunteer groups offer resources, too many of our veterans have wound up unemployed, on the streets or victims of the opioid crisis that continue to ravage our communities.

Veterans also face higher levels of suicide than the general public. Six-thousand, one-hundred and forty-six veterans killed themselves in 2020, according to data from the VA. That included 199 North Carolina veterans. The causes vary, but include depression and other mental-health challenges.

They are also targeted today by extremist groups that seek to play on their innate patriotism and twist it to bitter ends.

The least we can do today, each of us, is pause for a moment of reflection on the freedoms we consider — if we consider them at all — to be our birthright. Many of them were bought on the battlefield. Offering the phrase “Thank you for your service” seems inadequate. But it’s something.

Let’s not forget them the rest of the year. Organizations like the Honor Flight Network, Operation Gratitude and the Wounded Warrior Project work hard for our veterans year-round. They’re worthy of our support. Let’s let our heroes know that we care.

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