When my father died, I was given a briefcase with the following words stamped on it: United States War Department. You may recall that our Department of Defense had a different name in those days.

The name change reflected several ideas as the times had changed after the Second World War. First, there was a need for an ongoing military establishment in a permanent state of readiness, as well as civilian control of the military, and the powerful American expectation that all our wars were really defensive wars. Times have changed again.

Who of us still isn’t tempted to duck when a plane flies overhead? It is hard to defend against the man on the bus with a backpack or an innocent looking rental truck loaded with explosives. I mused at the truth of a New Yorker cartoon last week depicting a general at his laptop eating breakfast and his wife, pouring coffee, who inquires: “Oh, are you attacking from home today?”

We can spend the youthfulness of an entire generation in battle and still be in as much danger from these things as ever. We are still losing many that will never have a chance to fulfill the dreams that any of us have toward families, careers, and the delights of a well-lived life. It’s easy to associate Veterans’ Day with older people: ancient men in uniforms of their youth walking or being driven in parades. When you look at the Wall of Honor in the Meade Room this weekend, you’ll see men and women now late in life standing in fields of battle when they were 19 years old. They are standing there still protecting the freedoms we now enjoy. Join us this Sunday as we honor both those active and retired for their service.