Today is Veterans Day.
Much like our own military, this holiday has almost become forgotten in years past — a few speeches attended mostly by other veterans, a passing thought of a family member or loved on who served and then business as usual in our busy lives.
However, in the North Country, there is a growing resurgence of respect for our military, which, in my opinion, could not come at better time for our troubled nation.
The North Country Honor Flight has seen a wave of recognition and admiration growing in our communities over the last 10 months since we were founded, all focused on the most senior and deserving veterans alive today: our World War II heroes.
Once again, they are leading our country and standing up for our freedom at a point when this country needs real heroes and role models so desperately.
The cliché on Veterans Day is to “thank a veteran.” Don’t just thank a veteran today; thank yourself …
If you felt a surge of patriotism for a moment at one of our Honor Flight flag ceremonies, thank yourself. If you felt a lump in your throat watching these veterans pass by at any of the parades this summer, if your heart swelled with pride when they stood tall while the national anthem played at the Battle of Plattsburgh fireworks ceremony, if tears streamed down your face when they were receiving thunderous ovations on stage at Hawkins Hall back in April or again just nine days ago, thank yourself.
If you witnessed any of the seven funerals attended by the World War II veterans Honor Guard this year, including two for their own fallen comrades, and you felt the emotion and gratitude conveyed to the families present, then thank yourself.
If you participated in any way in any of our five Honor Flights this year, the motorcycle escorts, the police escorts, the various area fire department and military expressions of respect, the pipes and drums, the crowds at the sendoff, the cheering and the amazing tributes and outpouring of respect, were choked up watching an Honor Flight aircraft take off with our heroes on board on their way to be honored at their memorial in D.C., then thank yourself.
Mostly, if through their heroic example, if after meeting or seeing the Honor Flight veterans you chose to learn more about their service and sacrifices that saved our country… If your respect for them transforms your admiration to encompass all veterans and all those who have ever served or are serving today … If these brave men and women made you proud to be an American …
Then you will understand ‘Thank You’ can never express what we owe our military and these heroes.
This year, the entire North Country should feel a sense of pride on Veterans Day, in what we have accomplished together. In honoring our World War II veterans, we are honoring all who have served and who are serving today, proving through our actions that those who put themselves in harm’s way to defend our way of life will never be forgotten.
Every veteran is a hero, no matter what era, what branch of service, what rank or what sacrifices they made. The one common attribute they all share is that they stepped up to face the unknown. They offered to surrender their own lives, if required, and for the most part did so realizing only a small percentage of those they were protecting would ever care enough to understand the depth of our indebtedness to those who defend us.
The greatest thank you that could ever be given to our veterans is to display a new love of our country and to feel that in your hearts.
If a veteran is the reason for that feeling, then they have been thanked enough.
Thank yourself for recognizing how much we owe all who served; you deserve it.
And Honor Flight thanks you.
Danny Kaifetz is director of North Country Honor Flight.