November 14, 2016, by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft – On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month in 1918, the hostilities of World War I came to an end. What was once known as Armistice Day is now known as Veterans Day, and serves as a reminder of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who served across the world to protect our freedoms. On this day, we have a duty to Veterans to reflect upon the men and women whose service and sacrifice is the foundation for our American way of life – our freedoms, our values, our ideals.
In the Coast Guard, we recognize our Duty to People as a guiding principle. It’s a duty to those we serve and duty to those who serve by our side. This principle is ingrained in all of our Nation’s veterans. Not everyone would put their life on the line for others, willing to risk that ultimate sacrifice. They have been symbols of freedom and democracy throughout our Nation’s history.
When we talk about sacrifice, we also recognize those who make sacrifices on the homefront. Our service members ask a great deal of their families and friends. In the Coast Guard, we saw this before, during and after Hurricane Matthew. While families had to evacuate, Coast Guard members had to head in. Families, friends, and neighbors were left without loved ones – an undoubtedly difficult sacrifice. It is fitting that as we mark Veterans Day as we also commemorate Military Family Month.
As we unite in honoring our military men and women and their families, we must recognize our commitment to them does not end when their service in the Armed Forces ends. While only one day out of the year is specifically designated to honor our veterans, our commitment to our veterans should be limitless.
Around 200,000 U.S. servicemembers return to civilian life each year, joining more than 21 million veterans. We can fulfill our commitment to these men and women by thinking more purposefully and more deeply about what it means to honor what they and their families have sacrificed for our great Nation. Whether it is connecting a veteran with a business opportunity, sharing information about an educational or trade program or passing on resources to a family member, we can all do our part in ensuring veterans and their families are not only revered through our words but also through our deeds.
This week, I met dozens of veterans who impact their community in positive ways at a local veterans housing facility operated by the United States Veterans Initiative, a national non-profit that provides permanent housing to veterans. Their Washington D.C. facility serves 85 veterans daily, providing employment assistance and housing support to veterans and their families.
As we gathered for breakfast, we discussed their bright opportunities – whether this meant furthering their education or pursuing a new career. Collectively, they were reminders of what veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces bring to bear. A veteran will meet and exceed any task that requires leadership, commitment, and teamwork. These dozen or so veterans were also a reminder of how our veterans serve long after they hang up their uniform. And, we are all better for it.