This Veterans Day, I pay tribute to generations of my family who fought bravely for this country.
My great grand uncle, Julius Cahen, was a Civil War veteran. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1862 — three years after arriving in this country as an immigrant from Germany. Julius participated in the historic Battle of the Ironclads in Hampton Roads . He fought to end slavery.
My grandfather, James Cahen II, was a World War I veteran. It was called the “war to end all wars.” It was far from that.
My uncle, James “Jimmy” Cahen III, was a World War II aviator who was shot down in northern Italy in February 1945 as he was returning from a bombing run that targeted a German munitions factory in Berlin. He died fighting fascism.
My dad, Asa Sokolow, spent four years in the United States Army during World War II. He fought fascism in northern Africa and Italy.
Jimmy Cahen’s wife, Frances Bloch Cahen, and my mother, Phyllis Cahen Sokolow, supported the war effort on the home front during World War II. Frances lost her husband and my mom lost her brother.
And finally, my father in law, Jack Wright, Jr., joined the Army and the Air Force and was a Vietnam War veteran. He spent more than twenty years in the armed forces of our country.
During World War II, my father wrote a letter home from the front right after the D-Day invasion in Normandy in June 1944. It captures the feeling of the times and the dedication of millions who fought to defeat fascism in the hope that we would never have to suffer despots again:
“The big news today, of course, was the invasion. We were moving up in convoy when the news broke and within a few minutes every GI truck on the road and outfits bivouacking along the highways were displaying signs for all to read. Coming as it does on the heels of our capture of Rome, you can imagine the high state of morale among our troops! We all feel that the next few months will tell the story — home by Christmas or another few years of sieges and stalemates.
Lord, the highways up here present an unforgettable sight. Unbelievable quantities of knocked out Jerry guns and Jerries litter the shoulders of the road to those regions where our Air Force caught them retreating. The towns, of course, are once again a mass of rubble and refuse. And for the first time we’re encountering some of the real Italian Fascists. Sniping by these Fascists still proceeds on a small scale and it presents of bit of a thrill to the dull convoy movement.
Keep your fingers crossed for those boys on the beachheads of France.”
This country has fought many wars in its more than 240-year history — many of them just, some less so. But our veterans have always done everything that was asked of them. For this they have earned our eternal thanks and our respect.
So this Veterans Day let us honor all those men and women who put their lives on the line on beachheads around the world.
Let us choose leaders who have moral clarity and a dedication to the principles on which our country was founded, leaders who are worthy of those who wear the uniform of this country.
And let us all fight for a world in which we can finally lay down our sword and shield — and study war no more.