Celebrating honorable veterans

Veterans Day, being celebrated on a Saturday this year — today — provides the opportunity for more Americans than usual to attend patriotic parades and participate in other activities associated with the observance.

This being a weekend, fewer people will have to report to their jobs, schools won’t be in session and, for most families, there won’t be many of the other weekday pressures that affect their lives.

No American should fail to allot some time today to remember — and thus honor — those whose dedicated service and sacrifices as members of the military services have protected this nation and helped keep it free.

Memorial Day, observed in late May, remembers military personnel who died while serving this country.

Veterans Day honors all who have served in the military services, whether or not they made the ultimate sacrifice on a battlefield.

But that distinction between the two holidays having been made, this year has provided an important example of why the words “all who have served” are not actually accurate.

When someone says Veterans Day gives recognition to “all who have served,” they should include the word “honorably.”

This year has further cemented the evidence of why that additional word is important.

It is tied to the now-dishonorably-discharged Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who intentionally walked off his military base in Afghanistan in 2009, was captured by the Taliban, then spent five years in Taliban captivity.

After Bergdahl turned up missing, other soldiers risked their lives trying to find him. Initially, it wasn’t known whether his absence was unintentional or otherwise.

It subsequently was ascertained that Bergdahl was a deserter.

He is a disgrace to this nation’s military who deserved — and continues to deserve — no sympathy or leniency regarding his Taliban experience.

Yet, a military judge, who had the authority to sentence Bergdahl to many years of prison time, even a life sentence, decided earlier this month not to hand him any prison sentence, after Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

That military judge’s decision rightly has angered many people, and for those Americans who believe Bergdahl deserves a long time behind bars, even the death penalty, the thought of his cowardice and abandonment of loyalty to his country might creep into their minds today.

He will continue to remain repulsive in their eyes.

Veterans Day never was meant to honor anyone like him.

Today, focus your attention on the good that this observance represents. When you see a veteran marching or riding in a parade, or enjoying a free meal at one of the area restaurants offering such a thank-you, know that it’s only a small token of this area’s appreciation.

And, if you’re with your children or grandchildren, impart understanding to them about what this holiday means and how important it is.

Those worthy of recognition today didn’t run away from their assignments, duties or missions. They remained committed to the dedication, perseverance and toughness necessary for service in the military ranks.

All of them — all who served honorably — deserve the gratitude that always must remain a centerpiece of this important day.