Along its 150-year journey “to the stars through difficulties,” Kansas has sent many thousands of men and women to fight under the U.S. flag in conflicts across the globe. On this Veterans Day, we proudly hail those brave warriors, and solemnly recall the ones who lost their lives while safeguarding their nation.
In the Sunday Eagle, an article by Beccy Tanner offered some reminders about the impressive depth of the tradition of military service in Kansas – starting with its nearly 8,500 casualties and organization of the first African-American regiment during the Civil War, and extending to the more than 16,000 active-duty soldiers currently serving in the Army and the more than 900 airmen from McConnell Air Force Base, including Guardsmen and Reservists, deployed around the world.
The bond grew strong during World War II, as Kansan Dwight Eisenhower served as supreme commander of the Allied forces and Wichita’s aircraft plants manufactured so many of the war-fighting machines.
Emporia led the effort to change Armistice Day into Veterans Day, to recognize those who’ve served in all wars and conflicts. As president, Eisenhower signed legislation in 1954 making the change official.
More recently, Kansans including Gen. Richard Myers and Wichita native Robert Gates have played key roles in the nation’s defense – Myers as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Bush and Gates as defense secretary under Presidents Bush and Obama.
And former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, a decorated and wounded veteran, championed the cause of the National World War II Memorial, leading to dedication of a plaque in his honor at the site in Washington, D.C., earlier this year.
Having followed the inspiring lead of local veteran Phil Blake, Wichita will be able to celebrate the completion of its own World War II memorial at 11 a.m. Saturday in Veterans Memorial Park at Central and Greenway. More than 700 commemorative bricks were sold for $100 each, helping raise $35,000 to make the project happen – and more than meeting Blake’s deadline of next month’s 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Well done.
Last week Mayor Carl Brewer and the Wichita City Council approved a proclamation observing this not just as Veterans Day but as the start of a three-day weekend dedicated to honoring veterans, a multiyear effort that organizers hope will allow for more attention and community focus.
Eisenhower once said that “guns and tanks and planes are nothing unless there is a solid spirit, a solid heart and great productiveness behind it.”
To the Kansans of generations past and present who have contributed those qualities, and their all, to the nation’s defense, the message from their state today should be:
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman