When President Abraham Lincoln gave his second inaugural address in 1865, his first term of office was scarred by four years of Civil War.

The war, to that point, left 624,000 Union and Confederate soldiers dead—half the cost of all U.S. wars before and since—and 476,000 wounded, according to published reports.

Lincoln challenged the nation, “With malice toward none, with charity for all ... to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan ....” It was a commitment to those who served their country that we would look after them, and the families of those who gave their all.

And so we set aside Nov. 11 as Veterans Day, the day we officially remember and give thanks to all who served. Schoolchildren perform tributes. Government leaders give speeches; retailers offered discounts. Banners and flags fly.

It’s right for us to make these public displays of respect for our veterans. After the sacrifices they and their families have made on our behalf, it is the least we can do.

This day is dedicated to the many veterans who have served across this nation and all over the world. Thousands live in Chickasaw County and the surrounding area -- young and old alike. They’re our family and friends.

These days, in the post-military draft era, the ranks of the U.S. armed forces are filled with volunteers, men and women who signed up almost exclusively on their own volition to serve their country, making an unselfish choice if there ever was one.

Those veterans transcend the divides that often rent this nation, going where they are sent despite their personal feelings.

Over the years, many of those men and women were ordered to hell-holes history has long since forgotten, asked to accomplish the impossible.

Many accomplished it.

Many died trying.

Survivors often returned to a world more interested in pseudo-heroes in sports uniforms than real heroes in military garb.

Survivors often carried the war home with them, victims of physical, mental or psychic injuries. The more fortunate lived to fight their own private battles, often known only to them and their next of kin.

The less fortunate wound up in a nursing home, a mental ward, or found final peace in an early grave.

Apparently becoming a veteran is on the decline. A VA survey found that the number of Americans with military experience has declined drastically, from 18% of the U.S. population in 1980 to 7% in 2016.

It’s a trend that’s likely to continue, as the service branches turn to social media advertising and offer incentive packages to help adequately fill their ranks.

Recent polling shows that for a variety of reasons, only 12.5% of young people are willing to consider the military either as a career or a stepping stone to some other field.

The military isn’t for everyone. Still, serving one’s country is an honorable endeavor.

This Veterans Day, and every day, every veteran deserves our gratitude. You can show it by sending a letter or message to someone you know who has served. Consider volunteering your time to a veteran’s organization that could utilize your skills.

If nothing else, simply be a friend to a veteran.

Don’t let Veterans Day pass this year without doing at least one small act to remember the sacrifice our fellow Mississippians, and veterans everywhere, have made for our country.

Remember that all veterans gave something of themselves, and some veterans gave up all their tomorrows so we could have all ours.

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