On November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Armistice Day to be a day for individuals to remember the ending of WWI. This was one year after the fighting had stopped on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Armistice Day continued until June 1954, when the name was changed to Veteran’s Day, a title that remains.
What is a veteran? One person identified this special individual as the following:
A veteran—whether active duty, discharged, retired, or reserve—is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America,” for an amount of “up to, and including his life.”
Veterans are men and women who live across town, across the street, and next door. They are our friends, our co-workers, our grandparents or parents, our nephews or nieces, our uncles or aunts, our sons or daughters, and they are our spouses. By their willingness to serve and sacrifice for their country, these special people have earned her lasting gratitude, and it is only proper and fitting that we pay them their due respect.
Since November 11, 1954, our nation has celebrated Veteran’s Day with a ceremony held at Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremony begins at precisely 11 A.M. with the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is followed by a presentation of the colors by various veterans’ organizations and then speeches by dignitaries, including U.S. presidents, vice-presidents, and others.
In 1985, President Ronald Reagan made these remarks at the Veteran’s Day National Ceremony in Arlington:
There is a special sadness that accompanies the death of a soldier, for
we are never quite good enough to them—not really, we can’t be, because
what they gave us is beyond our powers to repay. And so, when a serviceman
dies, it is a tear in the fabric, a break in the whole, and all we can do is remember.
And the living have a responsibility to remember… .
Paying tribute to those who have served our country isn’t just an act done on the national level. Many local groups and organizations join in recognizing these valiant individuals by means of numerous local events.
While thinking of how much we owe these individuals who are serving or who have served, I am reminded of several quotes. The first from President John F. Kennedy reads: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” President Harry S. Truman said: “Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” President Bill Clinton stated: “For all of you who have helped America live up to its promises, your nation has a special obligation to keep its commitment to you.”
In honoring veterans we must keep the promises we have made to them. We must care for those who have been injured in the service of our country. We must honor and remember those who have died, and we must not forget those whose fate is still undetermined.
To the men and women of our nation’s armed forces, and to all our veterans and to those who have given their lives, know that you have your country’s highest gratitude, not only on Veteran’s Day but every day of the year. May God continue to bless America, and may He bless the servicemen and servicewomen who keep her free.