With each death of a veteran, one more memory of the war during which they served dies with them. More important, we all lose one more chance to honor that veteran for his or her service, which is why it is so important that we take time out of our busy lives to honor our veterans on Nov. 11.
Veterans Day evolved in the years following World War I, or ‘The Great War,’ as it was known at the time. That conflict officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. Fighting, however, had ceased seven months earlier when an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of ‘the war to end all wars.
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. In 1938, Armistice Day became a legal holiday by an act of Congress. Nov. 11 continued to be observed as Armistice Day until 1954 when, at the urging of veterans’ organizations, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an act of Congress formally changing the name to Veterans Day ‘in order to expand the significance of that (Armistice Day) celebration and in order that a grateful nation might pay appropriate homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much to the preservation of this nation…’
In 1968, Congress moved Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in November, but returned it to its traditional date in 1978 after heavy lobbying by veterans groups and concerned citizens, who believed that moving the observance to create a three-day holiday only served to take the focus off the historical significance of the day.
Unfortunately we have gotten away from that original concept, and many people look upon Nov. 11 as simply a day off from work to relax or take advantage of store sales and forget that the reason the day was set aside was to honor our nation’s veterans.
Throughout the history of our great nation, courageous men and women have served in the armed forces to secure, defend and maintain the freedoms upon which our nation was founded. Today, there are more than 22 million living veterans, men and women who served in the Armed Forces in times of peace and war.
They represent all walks of life, religions and ethnic backgrounds. Right now, members of our armed forces are putting their lives on the line in the war against terrorism, and hardly a day goes by when there is not a report of one or more of these brave soldiers paying the ultimate price. Others are serving in all-important support capacities, in locations all over the world. Whether serving in combat or operating a computer in San Diego, they have all answered their country’s call.
Our veterans represent the finest in the American character. They are fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors who answered our country’s call during World War II, suffered through biting cold winters and scorching summers in Korea, endured the booby-trapped jungles and steamy heat in Vietnam, and, are currently fighting in the unforgiving mountains in Afghanistan and the deserts in Iraq.
They are the men and woman who went off to places like Somalia, Grenada, Lebanon, Panama and the Persian Gulf. They represent all walks of life, religions and ethnic backgrounds. Their sacrifices have given us every day we live in freedom.
The debt we owe our veterans is one that is all but impossible to repay, which is why it is so important that on Veterans Day, we remember and salute their service. In the words of President Theodore Roosevelt speaking to a reunion of veterans in 1901, "…the service you rendered was not merely great, it was incalculable.’"
-Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto
Do you know a veteran? Thank them for their service in the comments below.