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Each year on November 11 we celebrate Veterans’ Day, honoring our fellow Americans who have served our country in the United States Armed Forces.
Originally called Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. Unfortunately, the “war to end all wars” was not the end and the day was renamed Veterans’ Day, recognizing all of the other conflicts our brave men and women in uniform have fought in.
This year’s Veterans’ Day coincides with the anniversary of the end of a number of major conflicts in our country’s history.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the official end of the Vietnam War. On January 27, 1973, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the Republic of Vietnam, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam, and the United States signed a peace agreement known as the Paris Peace Accords. By August 1972, the last of our infantry battalions had withdrawn from Vietnam. The Paris Peace Accords in 1973 removed any remaining American troops from the conflict.
Unfortunately, despite the peace agreement, fighting between the North and South Vietnamese resumed not even a day later and continued for more than two years.
The war lasted almost 20 years and it is estimated anywhere from 1.3 to 3.4 million people lost their lives during the conflict. Approximately 58,000 Americans died in the war and 153,000 Americans were wounded. Keep in mind that those who were listed as wounded may not include those who came back with some degree of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
About nine million American military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam War era, with more than 2.7 million Americans serving on the ground in Vietnam. Today, there are about 6.3 million veterans still alive. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are 203,807 Vietnam veterans living in Virginia.
This year is also the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean war. In 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea following years of hostilities. After a little more than three years, the fighting ended with the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953.
In just three years, approximately three million people died in the war. Approximately 36,000 Americans died in the war and 103,000 were wounded. About 5.7 million American servicemen and women served on active duty during the war, with 1.7 million serving on the ground in Korea. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are 1,165,000 Korean War veterans still living today. Of those, there are 31,535 living in Virginia.
Along with our Korean and Vietnam War veterans, we must not fail to recognize the thousands of World War II veterans that are still with us and the many veterans who served more recently in the Desert Shield/Desert Storm conflict and during the Global War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, etc. In total today, about 16.5 million living Americans have served in our armed forces.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting a remarkable veteran, Marcus Luttrell, who was on Capitol Hill visiting his brother, Congressman Morgan Luttrell. Marcus is a retired Navy SEAL who received the Navy Cross and Purple Heart for his actions in 2005, fighting against the Taliban. He fought in Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan, in which he was the lone survivor. His story was featured in the 2013 movie, Lone Survivor, where he was played by Mark Wahlberg. The movie was based on Luttrell’s 2007 book of the same name.
As the Athenian Greek historian and general Thucydides (c. 460-400 BC) said, “the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”
During this Veterans’ Day season, I’d ask everyone to reflect on what called these brave men and women to risk their lives to serve their country and to consider the tremendous debt we owe them.
Thank you to our veterans, like Marcus, who served their country in the most extraordinary way.
I urge you to thank any veterans you come across in your life, including family members, friends, and neighbors. It is the least we can do to honor the heroes who risked their lives for our freedoms.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.