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Remember to appreciate our veterans

Despite all the animosity that has permeated our society in the months leading up to this year’s presidential election, I feel privileged and fortunate to be an American.

I am proud of the things our nation has accomplished for the world, and I cherish the rights and freedoms that are afforded to all Americans.

None of us would enjoy the right to free speech, the right to peacefully assemble, the right to a trial by jury or the right to worship as we choose if not for the men and women who fought to secure them.

Although we have some major distractions vying for our attention this weekend and in the weeks to come, we must not forget to honor those individuals on Wednesday.

Veterans Day is observed on Nov. 11 each year, a nod to the signing of the armistice that halted the deadly fighting of World War I at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Although no great war like that one fought mainly in Europe is raging today, the conditions we are facing more than 100 years later are remarkably similar.

A technological revolution was underway. Manned flight had recently become possible, and airplanes and other machines were being developed and refined as tools for both peace and war. Fashions and moral standards were changing. And not only was America waging war against many of the nations that our ancestors came from, but our armed forces were doing so in the midst of a pandemic. Fear and uncertainty must have ruled the day, both here at home and on the battlefields abroad.

Many of us who are around today didn’t have the chance to know people who lived through that tumultuous time. All of my grandparents were teenagers then, but I only knew three of them and both grandfathers had died by the time I was 8 years old. Only my maternal grandmother survived until I was old enough to ask her questions about that period and to truly understand her answers.

World War II was fought by their children, and many of us had the good fortune to know members of that Greatest Generation. In fact, my father, the late James Compston, was a U.S. soldier who served in WWII in Europe.

Some of my uncles fought in Korea, and many of my friends’ fathers fought in Vietnam.

Decades later, some of my friends and classmates went to the Middle East to fight in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ever since the 1700s, Americans have been fighting for freedom. They have battled on nearly all the continents of the globe, and their causes have been many. In each and every case, though, they were defending our homeland and the values that we hold dear.

For that reason, we owe them all a debt of gratitude. Whether we know them personally, or whether we have only heard tales about their exploits, we should thank them.

That goes for all military veterans, regardless of whether they served during times of war or peace and without concern about whether they did their duty overseas or remained stateside.

All of the jobs they performed were important.

This year, those veterans are facing the same enemy the rest of us are — the coronavirus. Like it or not, COVID-19 is a threat to us all. The illness strikes indiscriminately, sickening young and old. We never know who might be infected and spreading the contagion, and we never know who might fare well as they recover and who might unexpectedly succumb to its most serious symptoms and related complications.

That will make it harder to honor veterans for their service this year.

Holding traditional gatherings for prayer services and military observances is not a wise course of action. Every time we get together in groups, we risk transmitting COVID-19.

So, what can we do to make this Veterans Day special?

In Belmont, village officials decided to go ahead with what has become an annual tradition. Plans called for a few individuals to deliver fruit baskets to the homes of veterans who live in the community. That is one thing that can be accomplished with relatively little direct contact among people who do not live in the same household.

If you are so inclined and you know of some veterans in your neighborhood, consider making a similar — but socially distanced — gesture.

Another way to honor veterans is to display a green light at your home A porch light or a flood light with a green bulb sends a signal of appreciation to those who served.

If you don’t have a green light bulb handy, perhaps you can create a patriotic sign to display in your window or elsewhere at your home. The message can be simple and still be effective.

Consider dropping a thank-you card in the mail to any veterans you may know. Better yet, pick up the phone and give them a call on Veterans Day. Make sure that they are doing OK and, if they are lonely because of COVID-19 imposed isolation, spend some time chatting with them. You can talk about their military days, or you can chat about common interest or anything else they might like to discuss.

Or, if you happen to be out and about and encounter a veteran, give them a friendly greeting and remember to say “thank you.”

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