We honor our veterans
More than nine decades have passed since the guns fell silent in the war then known as the Great War – the one we now call World War I. It was late morning in France when the armistice ending that conflagration took effect.
All those years ago, many Europeans and Americans expected the fighting’s end to usher in an era of peace. The conflict was thought at the time to be a “war to end all wars.” That was still very much on President Woodrow Wilson’s mind when he proclaimed Nov. 11, 1919, as Armistice Day. The enormous price soldiers had paid in blood and sorrow was to be remembered with reverence, honor and thanks by their fellow countrymen.
The president’s words captured his high hopes for a world where war would become more memory than reality:
“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.”
As we look back on that first national celebration of veterans, there is sadness for we now know that hoped-for world without war was not to be.
The 20th century was destined to be far bloodier than even the doomsayers of 1919 could have imagined. Those heroes of World War I were to be joined by casualties and veterans of other wars and conflicts. The sacrifices American patriots have made for our country have continued to be honored. Since 1954, however, the annual observance has been known as Veterans Day.
Thursday, Americans observed Veterans Day. Congress has established the week containing Veterans Day as National Veterans Awareness Week. The goal is to increase the understanding by school-age children of the important role those who serve in the nation’s military play in the ongoing success of American democracy. It’s a chance to help young Americans understand why honoring veterans is both a privilege and an obligation.
The Veterans Day proclamation issued in 2009 by President Barack Obama sent precisely the right message. Here is part of what the president said:
“On Veterans Day, we honor the heroes we have lost, and we rededicate ourselves to the next generation of veterans by supporting our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen as they return home from duty. Our grateful nation must keep our solemn promises to these brave men and women and their families. They have given their unwavering devotion to the American people, and we must keep our covenant with them.”
Veterans have borne a heavy burden to keep this nation free. They deserve our profound thanks and deep respect.
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