A ceremony in Belmont for veterans on this Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11, was by far the largest held there, said Plainfield Township Supervisor George Meek. Meek read a description he found defining a veteran. He said a veteran is someone who has written a blank check in service of his country, payable up to his life. He then introduced State Representative Vern Ehlers.
Ehlers spoke briefly to the crowd, recognizing that the country now mourns the loss of 13 people at Ft. Hood, an act of cowardice. “It is unthinkable to face the loss of loved ones in the safety of our own forts,” Ehlers stated. He reminded the crowd of the heavy cost of war, and said the holiday was created in 1919 to commemorate the end of World War I, the “war to end all wars.”
“It was such a horrible war, it was vowed at the 11th hour of the 11th month that we would never have another. That’s why Veteran’s Day is always November 11,” Ehlers stated. Veterans now comprise 20 percent of our country’s population. He spoke on the heavy burden of making political decisions regarding military action in times of war. “The toughest votes I cast in Washington are military.”
He said it is a time in our nation’s history where we are not safe on our own soil and have to fear attack. “Even in sweet Grand Rapids and our suburbs we are not safe,” he said. He told the crowd that of the six million Americans who will receive care from the Veterans Administration, 220,000 will have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ehlers said when the United States was attacked on September 11, we first responded with attacks in Afghanistan, since that was where the 9/11 attacks were initiated. “We should have stayed there longer instead of moving to Iraq too early and ended up fighting a major war there.” Ehlers challenged the crowd to thank veterans who have sacrificed so much to keep us safe.
Meek further reminded all to remember those veterans who have never returned home or been accounted for in the wars through the years. He listed those who have been missing in action, and further mentioned Michigan military specifically. He said the bodies or locations of 361 from Michigan have never been recovered from the Korean War; from Vietnam, 53 have never been found; four from the Cold War; and one from Iraq. He also urged people not to forget the 600,000 people lost in the Civil War.
“Wherever you look, whoever you talk to, you will hear stories of war,” Meek stated.