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November 12th, 2012
06:53 PM ET

Letters to the President #1393: 'For the veterans'

Reporter's Note: President Obama and Mitt Romney shared the rare distinction of competing in the first presidential campaign in which neither candidate was a veteran. Neither am I. And yet I am sure the respect for veterans is something a great many Americans share, no matter their personal experience.

Dear Mr. President,

Veterans Day always sneaks up on me. I can’t entirely say why, since I am invariably involved in some sort of project about the holiday. You would think that would be reminder enough, and yet that is not the case. The occasion usually slips my mind until I find myself scanning TV schedules and noticing that a lot of war movies are coming up, and then it hits me.

That, of course, does not change the day’s impact on me. Truth be told, I find it one of the most meaningful holidays in the whole course of the year.

I’m pretty sure I’ve told you before that I grew up in a military family. My father was in the Air Force for many years and served in Korea. My father-in-law was a Navy pilot. My brother did a stint with the Air Force. I had a beloved uncle on my mother’s side who was wounded in World War II, and another on my father’s side who served in Vietnam, and there are plenty of others. I recently learned that one very old uncle whom I knew when I was a child (he has passed away since) was a World War I veteran. Imagine.

Although there are more than 22-million veterans living among us today, the percentage of Americans who can claim that honor is considerably smaller than it once was. And yet the respect we owe to their service remains unchanged.

This past week, I was at Arlington National Cemetery to tape some material for a Veterans Day special that aired over the weekend. I was in the area in which many of our troops are buried who was lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a sobering experience. The tidy rows of stones, some with small tokens left by families and friends were at once heartbreaking and inspiring. Heartbreaking because, of course, it is always sad to see young lives lost; inspiring, because they did it for us.

And I suppose that is how it always is with our veterans, both those who made it home safe and sound, and those who did not. Whether we agree with the wars our government chooses or not, these fellow citizens of ours did their duty for us. They stood guard. They engaged our enemies. They carried our flag.

Every year my wife makes a point to reach out to some veteran she knows to say, “Thanks for your service.” It is a simple and yet wonderful gesture. And in my experience, it is one that veterans appreciate as much as the medals and parades.

Anyway, I did not want the day to get away without wishing them and their families our best. They deserve our perpetual thanks, and so much more.

Regards,
Tom

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