Today's holiday, of course, was originally known as Armistice Day, in remembrance of the conclusion of World War I, at 11:11 on 11/11, 1918. In many countries, it is still known as Remembrance Day. In France it is still known as Armistice Day. It was renamed Veterans Day after World War II, in commemoration of the sacrifices of the many veterans of that war, as well.
I commemorated Veteran's Day by reading Lone Survivor, by retired Navy corpsman and SEAL Marcus Luttrell. HM1 Luttrell is known in special operations circles as "The One", because he was the only survivor of Operation Redwing, a mission in Afghanistan in 2005 to capture or kill Ahmad Shah, a major Taliban commander in Kumar Province. It was one of the most gripping and emotional war stories I've read in a long time, and I strongly recommend it to everyone.
Petty Officer Luttrell pulled very few punches in his account of his experiences, making some very pointed comments about how those who would send Americans to war should have the courage to make the tough decisions to back up the troops. He referred to being more afraid of the mainstream media than the enemy, and described how his team, led by posthumous Medal of Honor winner LT Michael Murphy, decided to release three Afghan goatherds who had discovered their team unharmed. LT Murphy (who had the ultimate decision) knew that his team would be tried and convicted in the media if they killed the goatherds to prevent their own compromise. That decision (backed by Luttrell) almost certainly cost LT Murphy and two other members of the team (Petty Officers Matthew Axelrod and Danny Dietz) their lives.
But it was probably the right thing to do, and it illustrates why we should remember those who serve our country all the time, not just today. Most folks will never have to make life-and-death decisions like that because there are those like Murphy, Luttrell, Dietz, and Axelrod who are willing to make those sacrifices and those kind of impossible decisions for the rest of us.
In general, I think most Americans do appreciate the sacrifices of our veterans, and do want to honor and support those who served. I don't get the same vibe from many of our leaders and elites, however, and the country's record on this score is not always that great.
You'd think that our military leaders, at least, would want to take care of the troops who voluntarily put their lives on the line, but even that is often not the case. Far too often I've seen military leaders sacrifice their troops for momentary convenience or political expediency.
War demands courage and sacrifice from leaders as well as ordinary grunts. If I have any prayer to remember our fallen comrades on this remembrance day, its that our leaders will find it in themselves to be as selfless and courageous as the ordinary Americans they lead.