U.S. troops begin their final pullout from Iraq at the end of this year, and the number of American troops in Afghanistan is scheduled to be reduced by 10,000 by then, too.
This is a good day to give thought to the sacrifices these men and women have made and the cause for which they made it.
Us. We're the cause. Not the president, although he is the commander in chief. Not Congress.
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We acknowledge that many combat troops tell interviewers that in battle, they are there for their buddies. That view certainly carries conviction in the middle of a battle, but it is also true that the soldiers and their buddies would not be in Afghanistan -- would not have been in Iraq -- except for threats, real or perceived, to their fellow Americans in general, not just the troops.
Nov. 11 is a traditional day for honoring American troops.
On this date 93 years ago, America and the world celebrated the first Armistice Day.
It was a solemn event that came to be observed annually, first as Armistice Day and later as Veterans Day.
At 11 seconds and 11 minutes past 11 o'clock on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, armistice between the hostile nations signaled the end of World War I. The Armistice actually was signed six hours earlier, at 5 a.m., but did not go into effect until the agreed time.
While originally it was an observance honoring those Americans who served in the trenches during World War I, after World War II it came to be a day of recognition for all veterans who had served their country, in peace time or war.
But as we have said before, the greatest honor and deepest regret is, of course, meant for those who have served in combat. And no one doubts that those who paid the ultimate price are worthy of the highest honors.
But the official U.S. government site on Veterans Day explains the broader, if not deeper, significance of the day.
"In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served -- not only those who died -- have sacrificed and done their duty," the site says.
A more up-to-the-minute approach came Thursday, when the Senate passed the "Vow to Hire Veterans Act of 2011," sponsored by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
Murray is a nationally recognized champion of veterans rights and the need to respect those who have sacrificed so much for the rest of us.
The act is comprehensive legislation to end veteran unemployment in this country.
"For too long," Murray says, "we've patted our veterans on the back for their service and then pushed them out into the job market alone."
She says unemployment among veterans is higher than the national average. It's at 11.5 percent.
"That is one-in-10 of our nation's heroes who can't find a job to support their family, don't have an income that provides stability, and don't have work that provides them with the self-esteem and pride that is so critical to their transition home," Murray said. "Currently, there are nearly 1 million unemployed veterans in the United States."
That is a deplorable number, and efforts to correct the situation deserve wide support.
This is a traditional day to honor veterans.
But some years, like this one, to all the solemn ceremonies we should add a job fair.
It might do a lot of good.