This editorial is being published together with Lee Enterprises' Illinois newspapers.
Wednesday, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day, a federal holiday that commemorates and honors every veteran who has served and is serving in America's armed forces.
The roots of this day of honor are in excess of a century old. Nov. 11, 1918, was Armistice Day, the day when world leaders signed the documents to end World War I — at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. That moment is so ingrained in the world's history that French and German leaders will meet today at what remains of the Wagon of Compiegne, the carriage-turned-office where the Allies and Germany signed that armistice.
Veterans past and present — from the Revolutionary War to our present-day warriors — are honored and memorialized with speeches, prayers, pride and tears.
According to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, 325,574 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive in 2020. In excess of 11,000 of them live in Illinois Veterans of more recent wars, conflicts and peacetime service are gradually aging and finding themselves in need of help that can be provided through various veterans' organizations and the Veterans Administration.
There are those who believe "veteran" is reserved for people who served in war time, and those who served on hostile ground. We prefer to use the designation to honor all who have served overseas and stateside, in war time and in peace. Anyone who chooses to wear the uniform and bear arms to serve, protect and defend the United States is worth celebrating, thanking and remembering.
Veterans can be left mentally or physically damaged. Some may have received care, but many were not cared for in the way they should have been. To this day, we struggle as a country to take care of the physical and mental health of our veterans. One of the country's shameful realities is its average of 20 veteran suicides per day. Additional funds have been set aside to help. But many veterans distrust the Veterans Affairs bureau, and the majority of veterans who commit suicide have never reached out to the VA.
If you are or if you know a veteran facing challenges and pondering personal harm, call the Veteran Crisis Line, staffed 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255. Select “1” for a Veterans Affairs staffer. It is the same number used for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
On Wednesday, Veterans Day, we ask that you consider observing a moment of silence at 11 a.m. and making some kind of tribute, personal or public, to those who have served and continue to serve our country.
On behalf of a grateful nation, we offer our heartfelt thanks to all those who have served and are serving in America's armed forces and to their families who selflessly support their efforts.
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!