How would America be different without the sacrifice of the American veterans?

Imagine different results at the end of WWII without the American veterans’ sacrifices. Would America be flying different flags? What if America didn’t have the stars and stripes but instead the British Union Jack? Other alternatives could have been the Swastika flag of Nazi Germany or the Japanese flag, known as the Flag of Shinto, the sun goddess of the emperor of Japan.

Maintaining our freedom has been labor intensive. To date, 16 million American veterans served in at least one of American’s wars. Starting with the Revolutionary War to current conflicts, over 666,441 American veterans lost their lives in mortal combat and 1,498,240 suffered grievous wounds in combat. Some of the battlefield-inflicted wounds were so serious that they left the wounded veterans with permanent disabilities the rest of their lives. All of these veterans were supporting and sacrificing in order to achieve freedom at home and in other countries.

From the beginning, American veterans endured unimaginable, horrible conditions. We remember reading about the freezing weather experienced by the first American veterans and their leader, Gen. George Washington, as they crossed the Potomac at Valley Forge. During WWII, here are two extreme examples of extraordinary weather conditions that our veterans endured. First, the beatings and torture our soldiers withstood in the Death March of Bataan under squalling heat and humidity. Secondly, in contrast, the coldest winter in 50 years created brutal battle conditions during the Battle of the Bulge for the American Army as it was close to entering our enemy country, Germany.

The need for official veteran assistance after a war was first recognized by Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln made the following statement: “Honor the soldier and sailor everywhere who bravely bears the country’s cause. Honor also the civilian who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as the best he can, the same cause.”

With over 600,000 veterans from the Civil War, President Lincoln signed congressional legislation which created the National System for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in March 1865. This national institution to care for veterans was the precursor to the modern-day U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Hundreds of thousands of Civil War veterans then had an opportunity to receive treatment for their injuries and assistance with their disabilities. Today, the VA operates 171 medical centers, 350 outpatient community and outreach clinics, 126 nursing home care units and 35 live-in care facilities for injured or disabled veterans.

So, my fellow Americans, I ask you again: What would our country be like without the honorable sacrifices made by our American veterans who did secure our beloved country?

Mel Bockelman, 94,

WWII veteran,

Concordia VFW

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