This year marks the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I — the “war to end all wars.”

Millions of Americans have served our country since U.S. troops boarded boats to fight in the trenches of France and beyond. Our nation has committed its service members to many wars on foreign shores as well as deployed troops within the U.S. to assist in the aftermath of devastating natural disasters. Veterans Day calls us to reflect on the sacrifice and service offered by veterans throughout our history.

I have some old black and white photographs of my dad’s father, my grampa Snyder, in his WWI doughboy uniform. He’s riding a horse in a couple of the pictures — and in one photograph he’s wearing the early version of a gas mask, which looks more like a device that might strangle you rather than save your life from the yellow mustard gas that afflicted so many soldiers. My grampa was known for having a terrible temper, but I remember him teaching me how to put a wriggly worm on a hook so I could catch a fish. I don’t remember him ever talking about the war. After he died, I found his soldier’s pay record and a list of the battles he fought in, including a pamphlet that listed the number of men killed in action and wounded.

The news is once again filled with reports — and controversy — surrounding armed conflict around the world and the many places where Americans are serving in uniform.  Service members are in harm’s way in Afghanistan, Iraq, Niger and many other places in the world. The poignant loss of one widow, whose children will never see their father again, reminds us that families and children bear the burden of the ultimate sacrifice for the rest of their lives.

Children’s Home + Aid has been serving children and families in need for 135 years. Throughout our nearly 135 year history, many of the children and families we’ve served turned to us because of the personal losses and trauma that they experienced as a result of war. Herman Dunlap Smith, Children’s Home + Aid’s Board Chair, wrote these words in 1944 in his Chairman’s report:

“Each year, for several years, we have all come to this annual (Children’s Home & Aid Society board) meeting hopeful it would be the last one to consider children and war in the same breath. We may have to continue meeting hopefully a few more years.  But if there is any solace in war, it is here, in this room, right now….For here, at least, is the plus side of the ledger of war, children –human lives, each one of which is helped to better living….”

Today, Children’s Home + Aid is fortunate to have many people who have served in the military serving now on our staff team. Their mission-focus and can-do spirit is part of what assures the “Best Results.”  We also have many staff members whose family members are currently serving in the military or who have served our country at some time.

Children’s Home + Aid created the Military-Family-Friendly Staff affinity group to explore ways that the agency can continue to develop our expertise and appreciation for serving military and veteran families. We’re also exploring ways to build understanding and support for our staff members who have a connection to or care about those who serve our country through military service. Encouraging Veterans Day gatherings by sharing a meal and thoughts is one idea the group suggested to build awareness and express appreciation.

On behalf of the Board, the staff community and the children, youth and families we serve, I am proud to express our deepest appreciation to all service members, veterans, and their families for your commitment, service and sacrifice to our country on this Veterans Day, November 11, 2017.

Nancy B. Ronquillo