Who we celebrate on Veterans Day

Thursday, November 7, 2013

On November 11, our country will honor its veterans as it does each year, with parades, ceremonies, speeches and patriotic music.

Schools will welcome veterans into their classrooms and ask them to tell their stories, and everywhere they go young and old alike will clasp their hands and say, "Thank you for serving."

We are blessed to live in a grateful nation.

We also live in an incredibly diverse nation. Our veteran population -- just over 23 million and counting -- reflects that. As Americans seek out those in their communities who wore the uniform to recognize them this Veterans Day, they'll find that women and minorities are serving in the military in greater numbers than ever before.

According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, about 2,600,000 living U.S. veterans -- 11 percent -- are black. Another 1,824,000 -- 8 percent -- are women. Smaller percentages include Hispanics (5.8 percent), Asian/Pacific Islanders (1.5 percent) American Indian/Alaska natives (0.8 percent) and "other" (1.3 percent). These numbers are always changing, but together, they're about 29 percent of America's veterans, or about 6,700,000.

From its inception, the American Legion has always maintained that a veteran is a veteran, and we all share a common bond, regardless of our gender or race. The 2.4-million member American Legion is the nation's largest veterans service organization.

This is not a new development. Women were welcomed into the Legion before they had the right to vote in the United States.

If you honorably served our country during wartime, you have a home in the American Legion, period. Its members know, and cherish, a camaraderie rarely found elsewhere in society -- a camaraderie that is color-blind and, increasingly, gender-blind. The oath they swore was the same. The commitment they made; the discipline they endured; the joy and pride they felt serving something greater than themselves.

On this Veterans Day, as we pause to honor all our veterans and the Legion, let us thank God for the gift of freedom made possible by those who served our nation with honor, courage and commitment in our armed forces during all wars that enabled so many of them to earn that coveted title of an "American veteran."