Editorial: Veterans deserve our thanks, appreciation

Veterans Day 2021 might feel a little different for those who served and for the rest of us who are the beneficiaries of our veterans’ service and sacrifice.

For the first time in nearly two decades, our armed forces will no longer be serving in Afghanistan. While polls showed disentanglement from America’s longest war was favored by most Americans, the chaotic withdrawal was painful for many veterans, even traumatic for some who had served there. This served as a reminder that we must never forget our national commitment to those who served, even as our nation’s battles and our service members’ deployments become chapters in our history.

Veterans organizations say one of the most important things we can do for our veterans is show up. The public has an opportunity to do that at today’s ceremony at 11 a.m. at the Bartholomew County Courthouse. Organizers say the event will include the traditional and solemn prayers, music, and the placement of a memorial wreath. However, balloon releases for each veteran who has died over the past year will no longer take place due to environmental concerns. Likewise, the reading of names of veterans who have died over the past year now will take place in May as part of the community’s Memorial Day observance.

Hope also will have a Veterans Day program at 8 a.m. today at Hauser Jr.-Sr. High School.

Clarifying the distinction between Veterans Day and Memorial Day has been a major push in recent years for veterans organizations and for the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, and the changes reflect that. Today is the day to celebrate living veterans and honor their service. The Memorial Day holiday on the last Monday of each May pays tribute to those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Also new this Veterans Day is the Columbus Veterans Support Group, which will have its first meeting at 6:30 p.m. today at Columbus Learning Center, 4555 Central Avenue. Founder Kelly Kramer is a local counselor who also was a helicopter pilot during her 21-year service career in the U.S. Army and Army National Guard.

Kramer told The Republic’s Brian Blair that the recent pullout from Afghanistan triggered her idea for a group that will meet monthly and focus on topics of importance to veterans. “I think there’s this need for connectedness, soldier to soldier, often because that connectedness is missing once they transition out of the military,” she said. “Our mission is very simple. … We want to create a space for camaraderie, connection and personal growth.”

Veterans interested in learning more about this new group should visit the website columbus-vets.com.

According to VA statistics, there are about 4,500 veterans in Bartholomew County and nearly 2,000 in Jennings County. Many of them continue to serve their communities in numerous capacities, from law enforcement to the nearly 500 veteran-owned businesses in Bartholomew County alone, according to the Census Bureau.

On this day, show them the respect they have earned by serving our country.

Veterans, thank you for your service.