As We Salute and Thank American Veterans - Let Us Also Salute Ukraine's Veterans of Russia's War Against Ukraine
As we in the United States will pause on November 11 to pay tribute to those who have served our country it is important to understand how this federal holiday came to be and why. Veterans Day was until 1954 referred to as Armistice Day to commemorate the signing of the Armistice for the cessation of hostilities between Allied nations and Germany on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. This unofficial end to World War I was made a federal holiday to reflect upon the heroism of those who died in our country's service.
What we have learned over this past century is that our hopes for peace are not always shared by those who are intent to attack, invade, annex, kill and maim those who get in the way of countries never content to live within their own borders. We have learned that all too often the desire to live in peace and enjoy our freedom and democratic values is not always our decision to make.
Today over a century after the end to the war to end all wars there is still a country in Europe, Russia, which is not content to be part of internationally recognized borders, territorial integrity and national sovereignty and continues to change those agreed upon strictures through violent conflict. Ukraine is fighting for its survival against an enemy with superior equipment, training and resources and is locked in deadly combat not with pretend militias, but with Russian commanded and controlled troops that are intent on maiming and killing, and exacting maximum damage on Ukrainian citizens who stand in their way.
With war comes veterans and the numbers of Ukrainian veterans continues to grow. Wars have tremendous consequences especially when the territorial integrity of a country is at stake. There have been massive casualties among soldiers and civilians alike and for those who survive the initial physical wounds of this war, there are debilitating and long-term physical and psychological injuries that will have lasting effects. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that over 13 thousand people have been killed since the onset of hostilities, a quarter of them civilian. Another estimated 30 thousand people have been wounded.
As we recognize those among us who have served the United States bravely through the most difficult of times, we also want to urge that we look across the ocean to that same European continent where peace for some is still elusive. We ask that we take a moment to understand that Americans have much to offer and assist those Ukrainian veterans who have made untold sacrifices to defend their homeland.
We have so much to be thankful for in this great United States and many of those things we hold most dear our Veterans paid the price for. The costs of our freedoms are often overlooked.
The people of Ukraine understand this in a much “fresher” way. Veterans there have faced Russian Tyranny again for some time now, and stand across the fence as we celebrate this day.
May God richly bless those who have given so much!
- Gen Phil Breedlove, USAF(ret), Distinguished Professor, Sam Nunn School, Georgia Tech
As a US Army Veteran, I want to send my best wishes and pay my respect to the brave Women and Men of Ukraine’s Armed Forces who have been fighting to protect their Nation from Kremlin aggression for the last several years. Ukrainian Soldiers continue to Serve with discipline and skill, despite the endless violations of international law and cease fire agreements by Kremlin forces. Your Service entitles you to bear the proud distinction of being a Veteran who risked everything for your Country and for your Comrades. On this US Veterans Day, I salute you.
- LTG (Ret) Ben Hodges, Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies, Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA)
The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation also notes that the United States Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY22 (S. 2792) includes a provision providing for “expanded the use of the Secretarial Designee Program to provide for Ukrainian soldiers’ receipt of treatment at Department of Defense military treatment facilities when the necessary care cannot be provided in Ukraine. The committee notes that implementation issues persist with regard to covering non-medical expenses in connection with such treatment. Such expenses include, but are not limited to, the cost of transportation, lodging, meals, and incidentals for the wounded and associated caregivers. The committee urges the Secretary of Defense to coordinate with the Secretary of State, Administrator of United States Agency for International Development, relevant nongovernmental organizations, and senior Ukrainian officials to resolve these non-medical funding issues. Further, the committee encourages the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, to continue efforts to develop Ukraine’s capacity to care for wounded members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces within Ukraine, including building on notable progress in the areas of point-of-injury care, medical evacuation, and the establishment of a combat medic training program. The Department of Defense should continue to consider Secretarial Designee Program requests to provide specialized care in U.S. military medical treatment facilities in the areas of polytrauma, amputations, burn treatment, prosthetics, and rehabilitation on a case-by-case basis.”
The Foundation applauds the inclusion of this provision and hopes it will be included in the final bill presented to the President for signature.