For the first time in two years, the Yakima Valley has a chance to honor local veterans — in person. COVID precautions resulted in the cancellation of the VFW’s traditional parade through downtown Yakima last year, and health concerns put a damper on most other Veterans Day activities, too.
But Thursday, flags will again fly freely along Yakima Avenue, and the parade — complete with color guard, military vehicles and marching units of all stripes — will return. (We’ll have more about veterans in our special Veterans Day section, coming in Thursday’s newspaper.)
Taking time to remember the people who’ve placed the good of the country over their own lives is the least the rest of us can do. And we should keep their courage in mind year-round, not just on set-aside days.
This year, though, we hope you’ll show veterans some extra consideration.
Not just because of last year’s cancellations, but because we suspect many of our service people are hurting this year. They’ve watched — along with the rest of the country — as the United States made good on its word and left Afghanistan, ending a 20-year war there.
For many who served in the armed forces in Afghanistan, the U.S. departure, messy and traumatic as it was, must be a bitter pill to swallow. It probably feels like a betrayal.
What was the point of risking their lives and enduring horrors few ever have to experience if all their work is wiped out by handing Afghanistan over to the oppressive, fundamentalist control of the Taliban?
But that’s the thing about wars. That’s the thing about extreme groups like the Taliban or al-Qaida — or any group, foreign or domestic — that trades in hate, intolerance and ignorance.
Unchecked, their actions inevitably lead to needless bloodshed and heartbreak. In this case, U.S. forces eventually dispatched Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on America. And they worked valiantly for two decades to make way for a civilized, democratic society in Afghanistan.
After the horrors we all witnessed in August, we’re certainly not here to defend how our government went about extricating our service people from a falling country. At the same time, we have nothing but admiration for the willingness and capabilities of our troops to perform their assigned tasks, no matter what.
They’ve accomplished their missions in two world wars, through grueling battles in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, Pakistan and now Afghanistan.
Whatever mistakes their government has made through the years, the Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Guardsmen have been there, faithfully carrying out their duties.
And for that, we owe them a debt of gratitude we’ll never be able to fully repay.
So this year, the least we can do is show up and show them we care.