The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month fighting on the Western Front ceased. In 1918, November 11th marked the end of hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany. The armistice signed designating that date and time effectively ended World War 1 – “the war to end all wars”.
The next year, President Wilson officially proclaimed November 11, 1919 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. President Wilson said, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride for the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory...”
Every year following, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month we pause as a nation to remember with pride and profound gratitude the heroism of those who answered our country’s call to protect our most valued principals: freedom, liberty, equality and justice for all.
Since that first Armistice Day, many of our young men and women have answered our nation’s call to fight for freedom in other lands.
And every veteran reminds us that freedom is not free. It comes with a price which is paid by all those in uniform who pledge to preserve, protect and defend it.
Those of us who have not worn the uniform must be more than beneficiaries of their bravery - we must be stewards of their sacrifice.
Being stewards of their sacrifice is pretty much summed up in the words of President Theodore Roosevelt who said, “Anyone good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterward.”
As stewards of their sacrifice we must pledge to leave no veteran behind. We must commit to providing our veterans and their families with real assistance - material and spiritual. Once home, our veterans richly deserve access to quality health care, affordable educational opportunities and other services that will help them thrive.
As stewards of their sacrifice we must also never forget. Those we lost still live within us and those we welcomed home are the heroes among us. They have earned our deep respect and solemn recognition of their profound courage and patriotism.
This year I had the privilege of working on legislation to honor our Korean and Vietnam veterans. With the efforts of Korean veteran Alan Wright of Sparta, Thuy Smith, daughter of a Vietnam veteran and others wishing to pay tribute to our Korean and Vietnam veterans, new laws were passed designating July 27th as Korean War Armistice Day and March 29th as Vietnam Veterans Day.
As stewards of their sacrifice we must all take time to pay tribute to those who served in Korea, the forgotten war and those in Vietnam who did not receive the honor and glory they so richly deserved.
Regardless of when and where battles are fought, it is ordinary people who showed extraordinary courage in the face of danger, extraordinary honor in time of turmoil, extraordinary sacrifice in the name of freedom. On Veterans Day we salute them and say a heartfelt thank you.
Let us also remember those in harms way who are currently serving our country. They serve today with the same loyalty, duty, respect, selfless-service, honor, integrity, and personal courage as those who went before them. We pray for their safe return and look forward to time when we become stewards of their sacrifice.