Alan Clark

Alan Clark

We celebrated veterans on Nov. 11, a day set aside to honor a special group of citizens, even during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In this year of so much uncertainty, one thing is for sure – taking care of veterans is among the finest things we can do.

The term “veteran” gets bandied about a lot and can be confusing to the public. Just who is considered a “veteran?”

According to the federal definition, veterans are persons that have served in any branch of the armed forces in the U.S. for a certain timeframe.

Specifically, a veteran is any person who served honorably on active duty in the armed forces of the United States.

Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations defines a veteran as “a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.”

Those veterans that have had direct exposure to acts of military conflict may also be referred to as war veterans (although not all military conflicts, or areas in which armed combat takes place, are necessarily referred to as wars).

A combat veteran is a person who has fought in combat during a war or a skirmish against a declared enemy and may still be serving in the military.

Veterans Day is an official United States public holiday, observed annually on Nov. 11, honoring military veterans; that is, persons who served in the United States Armed Forces.

It coincides with other holidays, including Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, celebrated in other countries that mark the anniversary of the end of World War I.

Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the armistice with Germany went into effect.

The United States previously observed Armistice Day, but the holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

It all adds up to a special day to honor the special people who have served, regardless of whether it was in war, combat, or peacetime, and were honorably discharged.

You see, serving in the military is a sacrifice, as those who have been there can tell you.

It is the stuff of selfless service and dedication to doing your part for this country directly.

Careers get interrupted, families get moved around, the compensation may not always be equal to the sacrifice. You may find yourself in harm’s way facing the ultimate sacrifice, which is when you recognize you are serving as much for your comrades in arms as you are for anything else.

Friendships build up over time with people from all walks and all places. These you never forget.

This year, you probably did not see too many parades as we hunker down to protect ourselves from COVID-19.

A few years ago, Franklin County restarted the tradition of a parade to honor veterans, but it was de-railed in 2020 while we fight off a different enemy from another country, but memorials were held anyway at select locations. It is too important to ignore altogether.

It is so fitting that we always remember the day as a celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good, and that’s the way it oughtta be.

Alan Clark served in the armed forces of the United States from Jan. 8, 1972, until July 31, 2000, and is an honorably discharged veteran. His editorials appear in multiple newspapers in southern Middle Tennessee, and can be found as podcasts on Apple Music.