Column: Keep their sacrifices in mind on Veterans Day, and every day

by DuWayne Gregory |

As another Veterans Day approaches on Nov. 11, we begin the annual tradition of setting aside time to thank our service men and women for their sacrifice, not simply their service.

Many of us will spend the day watching parades and ceremonies  to honor our veterans. Perhaps, we may visit one of the many monuments sprinkled throughout Suffolk County to commemorate this nation’s wars, where wreaths will be placed to remember those who served valiantly and died in the service of our country.

These rituals, undertaken since the end of World War I and the designation of Armistice Day in 1918 and Veterans Day in 1938, serve as reminders of the sacrifices of our service men and women to ensure our freedom.

They endure as a result of the many iterations of wars throughout America’s history, from the raging battles on foreign soil to the cold wars that have influenced our policies and beliefs and have helped us become the democracy we are today.

Still, with a world on edge, with 16 years of war still festering in Afghanistan, ISIS commanding our attention as it destroys innocent lives, Green Beret deaths in Niger, nuclear threats from North Korea and U.S. peacekeepers operating in volatile, hostile environments, we look to those designated to protect us.

More so, we depend on the expertise of our military leaders, the commitment of our service men and women and their willingness to lay down their lives to ensure that we – as Americans – can continue to live freely.

With a population of more than 160,000 veterans on Long Island, approximately 75,000 of them in Suffolk County, our responsibility does not end with a parade or ceremony. If we are grateful to accept that we are protected thanks to the efforts of our U.S. Military, we need to ensure that our service members feel the same level of support when they return home.

Thanking them simply for their service seems not nearly enough.

Their sacrifice is the foundation of their service and their willingness to sacrifice – the comforts of home, time with their loved ones, a career put on hold … or, ultimately their lives, entitles them to a place in the collective hearts of all Americans who live in safety and freedom.

That bears remembering not just on Veterans Day but all year long.

It’s the least we can do.

DuWayne Gregory is the former presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature. He lives in Copiague.

Photo: Veterans Day services in Patchogue in 2016. (file photo)