CULTON: Celebrate the veterans in your life

The last few weeks — even months and years — have shown us how divided many of us are both as a community and a nation. I’ve seen things get ugly on both sides of the political spectrum as the clock ticked toward the election. However, now that votes are in and the 46th president of the U.S. has been decided, there is one thing that I hope can bring us all together again, no matter who you voted for — a celebration of our veterans.

Wednesday is Veterans Day, and I hope we will all take the holiday to celebrate and thank a veteran in our lives.

Veterans Day got its start in 1919 when President Woodrow Wilson announced the first Armistice Day. However, it wouldn’t be until 1938 that a congressional act named Nov. 11 each to be Veterans Day.

Since then, Americans have used the holiday to celebrate and extend “thank you”s to area veterans — and it is so important to do so.

While I’ve always known and appreciated veterans in my own life, it wasn’t until I took this job at Leader Publications that I fully understood the importance and impact of a simple “thank you for your service.” Over the three years I have worked as a news reporter, I’ve talked to near-countless veterans for various articles.

First let me say that the veterans I’ve interviewed are some of the best storytellers I’ve ever met. I could listen to them talk all day of their adventures, some heroic, some tragic. However, most of the veterans I’ve spoken with, especially those who served during the Vietnam War, have shared a heartbreaking commonality — they were not thanked for their service when they returned home. I’ve heard tales of veterans who were mocked and scorned, of men who had to change out of their uniforms before leaving the airport because they knew anyone who saw them would greet them with anger and hatred.

While we cannot change the past and take away the hurt this caused our veterans, we can help to make up for it now. We can listen to their thoughts and needs. We can offer a sincere, honest and heartfelt “thank you.”

It is the least we can do for these brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for their communities and country. So, this Wednesday, let’s set aside our differences and take time to celebrate the veterans in our lives.

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