COLUMN: Honoring America’s Defenders
The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten – President Calvin Coolidge said it well almost one hundred years ago. Friday is Veterans Day, when we as a nation honor those who have answered the call to defend our way of life. We exercise and enjoy our freedoms every day, and we owe special recognition of every American man and woman who has served in uniform.
On November 11, Veterans Day ceremonies will take place across the country. Citizens will gather in assembly to pay tribute to the memory and service of our warriors by singing the words of the Star-Spangled Banner—that ours is “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” We will pledge allegiance to the flag, with hands on our hearts, while remembering Americans who fulfilled their pledge to our republic, our indivisible nation under God, with everything they had to give. We will take a moment and pray for the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, and sons and daughters whose loved one made the decision to defend all of us, and never returned home.
Washington is home to more than 600,000 veterans, so as Washingtonians, we each have the opportunity to honor a veteran we know. An appropriate way to honor veterans is to simply say ‘thank you for your service’ to someone who served in uniform, or to the family members of those who are currently serving. We should honor them not just with our words, but with our actions as well.
One local veteran that comes to my mind is U.S. Army veteran Donald Siefken from Kennewick. I sat down with Mr. Siefken, now a retired truck driver, last week to discuss his own story, which unfortunately includes mistreatment at the Seattle Veterans Administration. Mr. Siefken’s story inspired my work on the Veterans Emergency Treatment (VET) Act to require that every enrolled veteran is afforded the highest level of emergency care at every emergency-capable medical facility under VA jurisdiction. Passing legislation to fix problems at the VA is one way to honor our veterans. Because we remember our veterans, past and present, with our actions.
The words inscribed on the Korean War Memorial say: Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met. May we never forget the price of our freedom. These brave Americans fulfilled their pledge to defend us, and we remember and honor all who answered that call this Friday.