2000-11-29 / Editorials

Terrorist Attacks Call For Vigilance

By George P. Basher

On Nov. 11th, Americans once again gathered on courthouse squares, at local cemeteries and along Main Street sidewalks to sustain an 82-year tradition that was born when silence settled over foreign battlefields bringing to an end the carnage of the world’s first global war.

On that date—the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month—soldiers on both sides put aside their rifles to celebrate the armistice that closed the Great War. This action became the cornerstone for America’s annual observance to honor veterans and to acknowledge their courage and dedication to the principles of freedom and justice.

Veterans’ Day, or Armistice Day as it was originally known, celebrated the end of all wars—a prophecy that tragically lasted less than a generation. The hope of lasting peace was shattered by World War II and further undermined by subsequent wars and conflicts.

Yet America’s sons and daughters proudly and bravely answered the call to duty, willingly placing themselves in harm’s way to protect others. Our nation has been blessed with an abundance of such patriots—men and women like those aboard the USS Cole.

America’s international role has evolved from peacemaker to peacekeeper. The mission of our servicemen and women has changed, but mortal danger remains a chilling presence for our service men and women as they struggle to ensure a safer world for children and generations of children to follow.

It is an exceptional person who is willing to risk his or her well being, even life, to protect others. Men and women throughout our nation have done so for the past two centuries and hundreds of thousands continue to do so today, facing unimaginable dangers in hostile environments around the world.

America’s cherished way of life, and the freedom of millions of people around the globe is testament to the selfless service and extraordinary sacrifices of our veterans.

The attack on the USS Cole attested to fragility of peace. We must never become so comfortable with peace that we let down our guard and allow others to destroy what our veterans have fought for and sustained in the fury of combat, and the nerve-racking struggle to counter the actions of tyrants and terrorists.

We can never repay our veterans for all they have endured and done for us—but we certainly can show by our actions on Veterans’ Day and every day of the year that their sacrifices are cherished and remembered.

This Veterans’ Day we hope all New Yorkers remembered in their prayers those patriots who gave their lives in service to America, especially those young sailors killed or wounded during the attack on the USS Cole.

All year long as well as on Veterans’ Day we must also honor those veterans among us—1.4 million men and women across New York state—whose contributions to peace and freedom should be remembered with thankfulness and pride. By remembering their deeds and dedication, and the principles for which they served, we acknowledge their legacy of freedom, prosperity and hope for a lasting peace.

George P. Basher is director of the New York State Division of Veterans Affairs.

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