To the editor:
On Nov. 11, this nation honors its veterans on Veterans Day.
Unlike Memorial Day, where we join together to remember and pay a lasting tribute to those men and women of the Armed Services who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of their country, we set aside Veterans Day to thank and honor our living veterans and all that they have done for this country.
But this Veterans Day has special meaning. This is the first Veterans Day after the fall of Afghanistan and the end to the almost 20-year conflict that started with that cowardly and brutal multiple attack on our country on Sept. 11, 2001. This was soon followed by our invasion of Iraq. A war in which thousands of young men and women perished in the cause of freedom and many more thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, will forever bear the scars.
The cost was high. As the actor Charlie Sheen echoed at the end of the movie “Platoon,” a movie about another conflict, Vietnam, “The war is over for me now, but it will always be there to the end of my days.” That’s how I and my fellow Vietnam veterans feel and I am sure that’s how the Iraq-Afghanistan veterans feel. Thankfully, unlike Vietnam veterans, the Iraq-Afghanistan veterans were not forgotten or ignored during these conflicts.
But even though these wars will be over the effects still linger and will continue to linger. We as a nation must continue to remember them. Although the ending in Afghanistan eerily resembled the tragic and sudden ending in Vietnam, the outcome of these wars will always be embedded in the hearts and minds of those who served there. And we cannot forget. We must never forget. We must continue to support those who placed the freedoms and security of this nation above themselves.
On Sept. 11, this country was violently and viciously attacked by a foreign and ruthless enemy whose sole purpose was to destroy us and the guiding principles that we had maintained for two centuries. Sacrifices were made, tragedies and misery occurred daily as these young men and women (why is it always the youth who are called upon?) responded to these terrorists whose goal was to gain control of not only our bodies but our souls and destroy our way of life and freedoms we have cherished for so long.
Veterans Day is very significant. This should be a very special and important day for both veterans and the country. On Veterans Day we have the opportunity to express our thanks and appreciation, in person, to those who left their homes, the arms of their loved ones, their fellow citizens and their careers to answer the call of our country and then return to take an honored place within our communities. Each and every citizen of this country and of this city has a moral obligation to support those who defend us in any way they can.
We are often guilty of sitting back and waiting for those who need help to come forward and ask for help. This is not enough. But we must do more than thank them for their service and shake their hand. We must give back to them for the sacrifices and suffering they sustained in the cause of freedom any way that we can. We must create affordable housing for young veterans and their families. Sadly, we are pricing them out of Gloucester with soaring rents and home prices and soon they will be forced to move out of the city they love. Is this how we thank them for their service?
We must insure that good-paying jobs, with benefits, are available in both the private and public sector. These veterans bring leadership, discipline and a “can do” attitude to any job and would be an asset to any employer.
To the citizens of Cape Ann, you need to support veteran-owned businesses. Post No. 3 American Legion periodically posts a partial list of veteran-owned businesses. Patronize these businesses, support them and help them grow! The COVID-19 pandemic has struck these businesses with as much devastation as it has all other businesses and they need our help.
To all Cape Ann businesses, a military discount would be greatly appreciated. If Lowe’s can give the military, veterans and their families a 10% discount, shouldn’t local businesses do the same for their own veterans.
These are real and tangible ways that you can express gratitude and say thank you for your sacrifice and patriotism. Thank you for putting the ideals of this country first by rising in defense of these ideals. Thank you for supporting and defending the Constitution of this country against those who seek to destroy our society and freedoms. We must always remember that they were there for you; now you must be there for them. We need these men and women to understand that we care.
As we celebrate this Veterans Day, each one of us within the community should make a vow to do more, starting today.
Let us make this Veterans Day a new day with renewed efforts. Let us insure that all veterans know the sacrifices that they made in defense of this country are not ignored. We understand, we support, and we care. We can also make a small token of our appreciation by attending the Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11 at 10 a.m. at the flagpole in front of City Hall. It will be a short ceremony but it will be a change to reflect and remember the sacrifices of our veterans. Please attend and demonstrate your respect and support. You owe it to them every day, but especially on that day.
To all men and women who have ever donned the uniform in defense of freedoms and society, and especially to our Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, you will never be forgotten and you will never be ignored.
Mark L. Nestor