A Special Tribute to Veterans on a Special Remembrance Day

Dan Williams, Teller County Commissioner

Veterans are a special and unique group of people. No better or worse than others, but special and unique.

At one time in our lives each one of us raised our hand, swore an oath to the Constitution, and were ready to lay down our lives for our Nation and each one of you. For those of us who experienced combat firsthand, we are forever changed. Seeing what human beings can inflict on others, what happens to our bodies and minds, and returning home unable to really communicate that to friends and loved ones, binds us together.

As Veterans many of us have dedicated our lives to leaving it better than we found it. The sacrifices of so many in our ranks must be honored and remembered. Each one of you has that opportunity on Veteran’s Day. We want our Nation and our communities to succeed, and we want Americans to live in peace, the peace we earned for you. During times of division in our Country, such as now, it is often Veterans that rise above the noise and remind us of honor, freedom, civility, and being part of a team. We have seen nations and communities ripped apart and are seeing those same cracks forming in America today.

Veterans know firsthand that it is far easier to tear down and destroy than to rebuild and preserve a lasting peace. After the Great War, WWI, a war that saw over 40 million men and women, combatants and civilians, lose their lives to machine guns, tanks, poison gas, airplane dropped bombs, artillery, and disease, we said we would never forget the lessons or repeat the horrors. Sadly, I have come to believe that war and not peace seem to be the natural state of man.

Despite the horrors of WWI, the war that would end all wars, we would go onto fight in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan and many smaller conflicts in between. Today our world is torn apart again by war to include a war in Europe between Russia and the Ukraine and now between Israel and Hamas.

As Veterans we instinctually know that somehow America will be drawn into both of those conflicts and others. I wonder in my own life, after fighting multiple wars over a 30-year career, why the world seems even more dangerous today. It is important to remember and honor our Veterans for their sacrifices and service and to acknowledge that there will be new Veterans, our sons, and daughters, in this brave new world. Veterans Day was first called Armistice Day and was first celebrated on November 11, 1919, on the first anniversary of the end of WW1.

Congress passed a resolution in 1926 making it an annual observance and in 1938 it became a national holiday. Veterans meet on many occasions, many of us belong to the American Legion and the VFW. We honor our wounded in Purple Heart organizations and our special operations ranks in their organizations and many more. Every day now, I hear firsthand just how disappointed Veterans are with what our country has done with the peace we have earned. We wonder out loud where the honor and decorum has gone.

Those of us who have fought in combat understand firsthand that there are no color, gender, or political divides for those who fight. So why are we fighting each other over nearly everything in 2023? It seems that we can no longer respectfully disagree and seek compromise. Saddest of all, we have begun to actually hate each other. because of our differences. We need to tone down the rhetoric before it’s too late and rather than focusing on our differences look to what binds us together.

As Veterans we would ask you to remember that we can lose this American experiment after so many of our ranks have sacrificed for it. This is exactly what our enemies want. This Veterans Day, honor us by helping us to bring our communities back together. Teller County Veterans are asking for a course correction and that change must come from each one of you and it must start locally in our own communities and our Nation will follow. Abraham Lincoln recognized this 160 years ago when he said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.’

*Dan Williams is a retired US Army Colonel and multiple combat Veteran and Apache helicopter pilot. He is the District 1 Teller County Commissioner and commands Post 1980 American Legion and is a member of Post 6051 VFW. He lives with his wife Suzan, also a US Army Colonel and army nurse, on their ranch near Cripple Creek

*There will be a county wide free Veterans Day dinner at the Ute Pass Cultural Center on November 11, 2023, from 5 PM – 7 PM. The event is open to all Veterans and their families and is sponsored by the American Legion