By Mr. Karl Weisel (IMCOM)November 15, 2013
WIESBADEN, Germany - Since World War I ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, Americans have taken time to pay tribute to those who have served. From its initial recognition as Armistice Day by President Woodrow Wilson through its evolution to Veterans Day since 1954, it has stood as day to pause in recognition of veterans past, present and future.
"On Veterans Day we honor the living … the ones who made it back," said James Mann, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 27, during a ceremony at Veterans Park on Clay Kaserne Nov. 7.
Describing veterans as individuals who were "prepared to go toward the sound of chaos" while others might flee to safety, Mann said, those same individuals remain ready to serve after leaving the military.
Col. David Carstens, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden commander, said he was reminded of a quote by President John F. Kennedy -- "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live them."
It's vital, he said, to ensure that veterans receive the opportunities to continue using their skills, leadership and knowledge acquired while in the military to continue serving the nation.
Tracing the establishment of the Servicemen's Readjustment Act by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1944, which eventually became known as the GI Bill, Carstens said veterans were embraced, encouraged to improve their academic skills and to play major roles in post-war society.
"Arguably, the power of employing our veterans post-war is what helped propel our nation to lead the world in the 20th century," he said. … "In fact, the GI Bill has led to 14 Nobel laureates, two dozen Pulitzer Prize winners, three Supreme Court justices, three U.S. presidents and scores of other leaders. In 1970 almost 70 percent of our Congress was composed of veterans."
That wasn't the case after the Vietnam War where the country was "so divided and distracted by internal politics that the public had little interest in what our veterans had been doing for the nation," Carstens said. "These attitudes and misunderstandings about veterans during the Vietnam era sadly limited the potential success of many members of one of our greatest generations of heroes.
"We cannot allow this to happen again," he said, pointing out that the United States now has the largest population of young veterans since the Vietnam War.
"The Department of Defense is absolutely committed to the effort of getting vets back to work," Carstens said, explaining that tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed and disabled veterans, changes in the Transition Assistance Program and Army Career Alumni Program, and various other initiatives are all aimed at helping those who have served their country in uniform find their way back into the civilian world with meaningful employment.
"Recently, the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden reached out to strategic partners like the USO to get high-powered business owners into our local job fairs," he added, saying that everyone can play a role in helping in that transition. "I assure you that everyone standing here today will know at least one of more fellow service members who are leaving the military over the next year. I ask you to tell them that they are not alone."
Carstens asked leaders to ensure that those transitioning out of the military from their units get the transition help they need and that civilians use their influence to "encourage businesses or organizations to hire a veteran or military family member.
"Our Soldiers, our service members, are Soldiers and service members for life. They are resilient," Carstens said. "They are strong. I am confident this generation will join the remarkable generations of men and women who wore the uniform and left an enduring mark on this nation as veterans. They will need help. We must give it to them."