Thanks of a grate­ful na­tion

Record Observer - - Opinion -

“The na­tion owes a great debt to its vet­er­ans, whose ser­vice to the na­tion spans ev­ery decade, ev­ery year, ev­ery day of our coun­try’s ex­is­tence. Through un­told courage and sac­ri­fice, Amer­ica’s vet­er­ans have se­cured the lib­erty which the found­ing fathers sought to es­tab­lish here in the new world. When­ever and wher­ever the na­tion has called — in times of dark­ness and dan­ger as well as in times of peace and pros­per­ity — Amer­ica’s vet­er­ans have been there. Vet­er­ans have proudly car­ried the torch of lib­erty for all to see.”

U.S. Army Gen­eral Colin Pow­ell, later to be sec­re­tary of state, spoke those words Nov. 11, 1989, at the an­nual com­mem­o­ra­tion of Vet­er­ans Day at Arlington Na­tional Ceme­tery.

Vet­er­ans Day grew out of the ar­mistice that went into ef­fect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, sig­nal­ing an end to fight­ing in the Great War — the war to end all wars. The Treaty of Ver­sailles was signed the fol­low­ing June, of­fi­cially end­ing a war that claimed mil­lions of civil­ian and mil­i­tary lives. In Novem­ber 1919, Pres­i­dent Woodrow Wil­son called for the com­mem­o­ra­tion of the cease-fire with a new hol­i­day: Ar­mistice Day.

“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 victor y, 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 the na­tions,” Wil­son said.

Yet, the war to end all wars got a se­quel. Then came Korea, Viet­nam, the Gulf War, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the war on ter­ror­ism. We have so many men and women to thank for putting on a uni­form and serv­ing our coun­try in such con­flicts.

Pres­i­dent Dwight D. Eisen­hower cer­tainly rec­og­nized the im­por­tance of our vet­er­ans, him­self a gen­eral of the U.S. Army and Supreme Al­lied Com­man­der in Europe dur­ing World War II. As pres­i­dent, he es­tab­lished Nov. 11 as Vet­er­ans Day.

“On that day let us solemnly re­mem­ber the sac­ri­fices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on for­eign shores, to pre­serve our her­itage of free­dom, and let us re­con­se­crate our­selves to the task of pro­mot­ing an en­dur­ing peace so that their ef­forts shall not have been in vain,” Eisen­hower stated in his 1954 Vet­er­ans Day procla­ma­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs, the 1968 Uni­form Hol­i­day Act cre­ated some con­fu­sion as to when Veter- ans Day would be cel­e­brated. The law was aimed at in­sti­tu­tion­al­iz­ing four na­tional hol­i­days on Mon­days — Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton’s Birth­day, Memorial Day, Vet­er­ans Day and Colum­bus Day — en­sur­ing three-day week­ends for fed­eral em­ploy­ees, the VA Pub­lic Af­fairs web­site states. Hear­ing out­cry over the change in Vet­er­ans Day, Pres­i­dent Ger­ald Ford re­turned it to its orig­i­nally pre­scribed date.

“Vet­er­ans Day con­tin­ues to be ob­served on Novem­ber 11, re­gard­less of what day of the week on which it falls. The restora­tion of the ob­ser­vance of Vet­er­ans Day to Novem­ber 11 not only pre­serves the his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance of the date, but helps fo­cus at­ten­tion on the im­por­tant pur­pose of Vet­er­ans Day: A cel­e­bra­tion to honor Amer­ica’s vet­er­ans for their pa­tri­o­tism, love of coun­try, and will­ing­ness to serve and sac­ri­fice for the com­mon good,” the VA states.

Take time Fri­day to think about the ser­vice these men and women per­formed for our coun­try. Think about how they put their lives on the line for some­thing greater. Think about the sac­ri­fices they made. And think about those who made the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice.

Let us all take a mo­ment and of­fer the thanks of a grate­ful na­tion to our vet­er­ans, to whom we owe so much.

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