President Barack Obama once promised, as a U.S. Senator, to honor veterans of the Cold War, who have never received official recognition and are therefore prevented from full participation in many Veterans Day celebrations. But he never fulfilled that promise–neither in the Senate nor the White House–leaving Cold War veterans in the cold.
This weekend, the Wall Street Journal documented the promise, made in 2006 to Frank Almquist, an Illinois constituent who had served in the Army in the 1980s. A medal for Cold War veterans seemed "appropriate," Obama wrote, and wrote that he hoped "this impasse can be broken soon." He never took up the task.
The fact that the U.S. government has never formally recognized Cold War veterans has meant they have been excluded from veterans’ groups such as the American Legion, which only includes veterans from periods of "hot" wars, regardless of where or how the veterans served. The U-2 pilots who provided essential intelligence; the soldiers who kept watch in Berlin; the sailors who were silent sentinels aboard submarines, tracking Soviet movements, ready to strike–all have gone unheralded, and largely uncelebrated, even on Veterans Day.
It is possible that the reluctance to honor Cold War veterans springs from a political motive. Many on the left opposed the tough line taken against communism by Presidents from Truman to Reagan; many still think of communism as a legitimate alternative economic model.