Service & Sacrifice: Every Day is Veterans Day
Ongoing attacks on U.S. troops in Syria and Iraq should remind us to thank all veterans, especially those who served in America's post-9/11 wars.
Veterans Day is a sacred holiday dedicated to honoring all the brave men and women who have selflessly served our country in uniform. It is also a time to reflect on the responsibility all Americans share to support current and future generations of veterans.
At this hour, thousands of U.S. troops face grave danger in Syria, Iraq and other nations and international waters around the Middle East. Since October 17, there have been more than 40 attacks against American service members by terrorist proxy groups backed by Iran. While drone and rocket strikes against our troops were occurring regularly before the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, the threat to American forces — more than 40 of whom have so far suffered injuries — is real and urgent.
A healthy portion of the approximately 3,400 valiant Americans serving in Syria and Iraq — part of a 45,000-strong American force stationed across the Middle East — is made up of combat veterans. Some have deployed to Iraq or Syria before, with some others having served in Afghanistan. These warriors and their families know the risks firsthand, yet continue to step forward and confront the evil of ISIS, al-Qaeda, the Houthis, Hezbollah and Hamas. They do so despite most in our country not paying attention to the military’s sacrifices and rhetoric from prominent politicians that doesn’t match realities on the ground.
“I stand here today, for the first time in 20 years, with the United States not at war,” President Biden said. “We’ve turned the page.”
When the president made those remarks, the same number of American troops were fighting ISIS and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria. Just because politicians in Washington decided to “turn the page” doesn’t mean our troops or military families have the same luxury. As demonstrated by their continuing attacks on U.S. service members, Iran, ISIS and the rest of America’s enemies certainly didn’t “turn the page,” either.
Downplaying or outright deceiving the public about U.S. military involvement in foreign wars is sadly not limited to one president or party. President Biden’s likely 2024 opponent (if you believe current polls), former President Donald Trump, made the following remarks while announcing his third presidential run at this time last year.
“I’ve gone decades, decades without a war,” President Trump said at Mar-a-Lago on November 15, 2022. “The first president to do it for a long period.”
First, a president who served one four-year term couldn’t have gone “decades” without a war. Second, when President Trump left office on January 20, 2021, thousands of U.S. troops were still at war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other global hotspots. President Trump is free to tout the fact that he didn’t start any of those wars, but that also doesn’t excuse the former commander-in-chief publicly pretending that the aforementioned conflicts didn’t exist.
The best way to pay tribute to our veterans is to listen to their stories and consider their unique perspectives on world events. That’s why when I see a post like the one below from combat veteran and Kabul co-author James Hasson, I’m stopped in my tracks.
The public has no idea how deadly the threat against our troops is right now—and the administration is doing nothing. If that continues, it's only a matter of time until people die.
I talked to a buddy at one of these bases tonight. Here's a ground level perspective:
"We're in… https://t.co/b7wzHZ9X01
— James Hasson (@JamesHasson20) November 7, 2023
“I talked to a buddy at one of these bases tonight,” Hasson recently posted on X. “Here’s a ground level perspective: ‘We’re in the bunkers about every other day. These [expletives] will eventually get lucky with one of these drones and kill a lot of people.’ He attributed the (relative) lack of severity in the number and type of casualties to ‘sheer luck.’
“The administration’s total inertia in response to the threat level is hard for them to fathom,” Hasson added.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the following on Wednesday while announcing a series of limited airstrikes in Syria.
“The president has no higher priority than the safety of U.S. personnel, and he directed today’s action to make clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests,” Secretary Austin said at the Pentagon.
As noted by the Associated Press, “this is the second time in less than two weeks that the U.S. has bombed facilities used by the militant groups,” using the politically correct word “militant” instead of the factual term “terrorist.” Either way, striking back just twice after more than 40 attacks on U.S. troops makes it easy to understand why the combat veteran’s deployed friend is concerned about the safety of his or her brothers and sisters in arms. Politicians in both parties must do more to keep our troops safe.
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From the Revolutionary and Civil Wars to battlefields like Belleau Wood, Normandy, Iwo Jima, Fallujah and Kandahar, our country’s best and bravest have risked and sometimes lost their lives and limbs to defend the freedom for which we express our eternal gratitude each Veterans Day. As our nation’s current all-volunteer force faces new dangers in the Middle East, Europe and around the world, we must extend the next generation of veterans the same courtesy.
“A year from now, 100 years from now, citizens will come here on November 11th to remember,” said President George H.W. Bush, the most recent combat veteran to serve as commander-in-chief, at Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day in 1991. “And yet we cannot confine our obligation to a single day. We must always remember the importance of preparedness and the high cost of liberty.”
Tom Sileo is a contributing senior editor of The Stream. He is the author of the forthcoming I Have Your Back, the recently released Be Bold and co-author of Three Wise Men, Brothers Forever, 8 Seconds of Courage and Fire in My Eyes. Follow Tom on X @TSileo and The Stream at @Streamdotorg.