Veterans Day had its beginning almost a century ago. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, an armistice between Germany and the Allied nations went into effect, effectively bringing an end to WWI. The next year on November 11, 1919, Armistice Day was commemorated for the first time. On May 13, 1938, an act of Congress made every November 11 a legal holiday. Known as Armistice Day, the original intent of this day was to honor WWI veterans. However, just a few short years after this the largest mobilization of forces in America’s history was required for WWII. Following shortly on the heels of WWII would be the Korean War. Consequently, on June 1, 1954, Congress changed the name Armistice Day to Veterans Day in order to honor all American veterans, whenever or wherever they served.
America’s veterans are truly her heroes. They are stellar examples of sacrifice, patriotism, and service to the United States. An unknown author once said, “Freedom is never free.” This saying has been repeated multiple times to get the point across that each generation must be willing to sacrifice for the cause of freedom in their time. Ronald Reagan put it this way: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in their blood steam. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
Let us never forget the many who served in our nation’s military, some of whom never lived to be honored or to be called a veteran. Others had their lives altered forever by combat experiences and injuries. Our founding fathers gave their all for liberty and freedom. Benjamin Franklin said, “Where liberty dwells, there is my country.” This was the spirit that formed the United States of America, a nation that grew because success and prosperity followed freedom and liberty.
Over forty-eight million Americans have served in the military since 1776, some during times of war and some during times of peace. There are about twenty-five million living veterans today, but each year we lose thousands of them to death. Many are buried in one of our national cemeteries. Arlington National Cemetery has more that 260,000 military veterans buried in it. These individuals represent every branch of service and every war that our country has engaged in, from the American Revolution up through the war in the Middle East. The American Battle Monument Commission has, and maintains, a list honoring every American who has given his or her life in battle. Included in this number are all 58,196 military personnel who died in the Vietnam War.
It’s been said, “we often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” Certainly, our nation’s veterans deserve our most sincere appreciation and our deepest gratitude. President John F. Kennedy said: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
This Veterans Day, make it a point to tell a vet or an active serviceperson how much you appreciate his or her service to our country.