FRIDAY IS VETERANS DAY, when we give special thanks to the men and women who have served in our nation’s military.
Of course, our thanks shouldn’t be limited to each Nov. 11. It should be a daily — even hourly — habit. Without our veterans and active duty troops, we would not enjoy the freedoms we too often take for granted. The purpose of Veterans Day should be to honor them even more than we do the rest of the year.
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Serving in the military is hard. It requires rigorous physical training, mental toughness and discipline. It requires being away from loved ones for weeks and months at a time. It requires long hours. For most of us, a long day at work might be 10 or 11 hours. For our soldiers, sailors, airmen and others, a long day might last 24 hours or more — all without sleep.
Serving requires risking injury and death. For too many veterans, their service resulted in mental or physical disabilities, and our support for them must be strong every day.
Some veterans were “invited” by our government to join. Others volunteered for reasons that range from a sense of duty and adventure to seeking a job or pursuing a career. Nearly all devoted years of their lives to become part of the world’s best military.
This year, Veterans Day falls in the middle of Fort Jackson’s yearlong celebration of its centennial. In 1917, the fort east of Columbia began training soldiers to help win World War I. The fort since then has trained soldiers to serve in every American war: World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Fort Jackson officials say that by the time their centennial celebration ends in June, five million men and women will have trained there. Those five million will have come from all over the United States and the world.
It’s likely that every American city and town — from New York to Smyrna in York County — has sent at least one person to train at the fort.
Some of those soldiers ultimately received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award. One is Cpl. Freddie Stowers of Sandy Springs in Anderson County, the only African-American to receive the medal for service during World War I. Cpl. Stowers was killed in action in France.
Another is Sgt. Richmond Hobson Hilton of Kershaw County, who also won the medal for his service in World War I. Sgt. Hilton, a member of the S.C. National Guard, lost an arm because of injuries received in battle.
Hilton Field at Fort Jackson, where nearly all basic training graduation ceremonies are held, is named for him.
Not all of the soldiers who have trained at Fort Jackson sacrificed like Cpl. Stowers and Sgt. Hilton did. But nearly all served their country with pride and distinction. Nearly all played a role in keeping America free.
Today and every day, we salute them for their service and congratulate them for a job well done.
Look for a special section in Sunday’s edition celebrating Fort Jackson’s centennial.