Sometimes stark differences are seen between veterans of different eras, but all hold the common bond of “We paid our dues” and love of country, SMsgt (ret.) Charles Eich said in remarks Saturday. Eich was keynote speaker for the Cabot American Legion Post 71 Veterans Day ceremony held at the Cabot Community Center.
Post service officer Allen Miller acted as master of ceremony; National Anthem was performed by Barbara Brooks; the Cabot High School, Air Force JROTC Rifle Team demonstrated close-order drill.
In his welcome Post 71 commander William Sheets recalled that Veterans Day is a celebration of all veterans and all they have done to ensure the rights enjoyed by the nation, while Memorial Day is reserved to honor those who died in service.
In his remarks, Eich briefly recalled key events that led to the creation of Veterans Day, beginning with the Nov. 11, 1918, armistice that stopped the battles of WWI, to the 1954 act of Congress that designated the day to honor all veterans. He also emphasized the shift of emphasis seen in Memorial Day, on those who died in service to the nation, to honoring all veterans on Veterans Day.
Eich listed the conditions that qualify a person as a veteran, and those which disqualify a person – including Bad Conduct and Dishonorable Discharges. If a person is discharged within 180 days of entering the military, they are not veterans, he said.
But, having become veterans, there are “stark differences,” depending largely on when they served, Eich said.
WWII veterans left not knowing when they were to return; now, veterans leave with established return dates – though they often return to combat several times; there were those who served involuntarily as draftees, and those who served voluntarily. Each with different stresses on themselves and their families, Eich said.
In WWII, with the draft, 12 percent of the U.S. population served in the military. However, with the end of the draft in 1973, the military became all-volunteer, and the percentage of the population on active duty has dropped to four-tenths, Eich said.
“Point-four percent of our fellow Americans are ensuring that we have liberty, freedom, security. This is their day – Veterans Day,” Eich said.
What is common to all veterans is a sense of pride, “You might say, ‘We paid our dues,’” Eich remarked.
That common point is summed in a phrase, first noted in a bunker at Khe Sahn in Vietnam – “For those will fall for it, freedom has a flavor the protected shall never know,” Eich said.
“Because [veterans] are all brothers and sisters of arms. We served; we are willing to give our life for our country – we love it,” Eich declared.