Editorial: Weeklong salute is just the start
We have featured each day on our front page this week military veterans in recognition of National Salute to Veterans Week. Others in the community have honored veterans in their own personal ways. Sometimes, a short trip to the Prescott VA to say "thank you" is the biggest honor of all.
Though we're thankful for the attention this week brought our veterans, one week is a compressed opportunity to salute the sacrifice. The numbers are truly striking.
According the U.S. Census Bureau, which tracked vets as recently as 2008, there are 23.2 million military veterans in the United States today, and they span generations. There are 9.2 million veterans aged 65 or older, and nearly 2 million younger than 35. When it comes to living veterans who served in two or more wars, there are 92,000 who served during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam; 740,000 who served during both Gulf War eras; 245,000 who served during both the Korean War and in Vietnam; 50,000 who served during both Vietnam and in the Gulf War; and 182,000 who served during both World War II and the Korean War.
When the veterans return home, they dutifully exercise the rights for which they fought. More than 15 million veterans voted in the 2008 presidential election, amounting to 71 percent of living veterans, as compared to 63 percent of non-veterans.
Numbers are also striking for those veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Arlington National Cemetery averages well over 20 funerals per day, including interments and inurnments. The flags at Arlington are flown at half-staff from a half hour before the first funeral until a half hour after the last funeral each day.
Perhaps the most inspiring of veterans is Frank Buckles who, on Feb. 1, turned 109, and is the last living American veteran of World War I. During World War II, he was taken prisoner by the Japanese as a civilian.
And when it comes to his fellow vets, he has no intention of slowing. As recently as this past December, Buckles urged congressional lawmakers on Capitol Hill to give federal recognition to a Washington, D.C. memorial along the National Mall. Buckles even spreads his message on his own website, where he says he "will continue to look forward to honoring my nation as long as I can."
If Buckles can honor that pledge at 109, we surely can follow his lead beyond this past week.