Veterans Day is a nice opportunity for the country to show its appreciation for those who have served, and still serve, in the U.S. Armed Forces. But during the National Veterans Awards Dinner in Birmingham, Ala., Wednesday night, American Legion National Commander Jimmie Foster said that appreciation should go above and beyond a single day.
"We must be there to support not just the families of the fallen, but also the loved ones of those that still are deployed and those who return permanently changed by the wounds of war," Foster said. "While we're happy to be here today to express our appreciation for our veterans, the true expression is expressed through deeds and not words.
"If you're an employer, give extra weight to the experience and the skills of the sailor turned job applicant. Veterans' preference is a requirement for the government jobs, but it's also smart business for the private sector as well.
"When an American Legion Auxiliary member asks for a donation for a poppy, remember the Korean War veteran who's in a hospital bed. When a member of Congress complains about the cost of veterans programs, remind that lawmaker of the cost of being a veteran. And don't underestimate the power of simply saying two words – thank you – to veterans that you encounter."
Foster was in Birmingham to participate in events associated with the National Veterans Day Program – which included Wednesday's dinner, and the World Peace Luncheon and National Veterans Day Parade today. The American Legion is hosting National Veterans Day; the event has taken place in Birmingham since 1947, and the Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans rotate hosting the event.
Foster said Veterans Day is about every veteran. "Veterans Day is a time to honor not just the heroes ... but in fact all the outstanding men and women who served in the nation's armed forced since our founding more than 234 years ago," he said. "Not all veterans have seen war, but a common bond they share is an oath in which they expressed their willingness to die defending this nation.
"Perhaps most significant in preserving our way of life are the battles America does not fight because those who wish us harm slink away in fear of the Coast Guard cutter, the Navy aircraft or the soldier in the Army on patrol."
Foster also said that the Department of Veterans Affairs needs to recognize the unique needs of women veterans. "America is home to 1.2 million women veterans, and they deserve support, and we need to ensure that people in Congress understand that and comply."
Retired Gen. Charles C. Krulak, former commander of the U.S. Marine Corps, received the National Veterans Award during the dinner. "We honor those who have sacrificed and those who continue to sacrifice," Krulak said of Veterans Days. "The common bond of those is selflessness, love of God, love of country ..."