Today We Honor Those Who Served
“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
— George Washington
Of course, we all hope that our young people are not called upon to “serve in any war” any time soon, but unfortunately, in the relatively short history of our nation, American soldiers have been called to participate in nearly a dozen armed conflicts since the Revolution. In those conflicts — the War of 1812, the Spanish/American and Civil Wars, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan — nearly 1.5 million American lives have been lost. And while today is day to honor those veterans who are still with us, and the sacrifice they have made, let us not forget those who are no longer are.
The History of Veteran’s Day
Veteran’s Day began as Armistice Day, when on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of November in 1938 — the first anniversary of the signing of the armistice ending World War I – President Woodrow Wilson declared it a national holiday; a day to both celebrate a long-awaited world peace, and to recognize and honor American soldiers for their service in the world war. Each year Americans would celebrate the end of, what President Wilson thought and hoped, was the “war to end all wars.” As we all know, it was not. In fact, it was far from it. The ink was barely dry on the armistice agreement when war broke out in Europe, and in just three short years, the attack on Pearl Harbor would hurtle the United States into yet another world-wide conflict.
Armistice Day was celebrated until 1954. Lawmakers at the time recognized a disturbing reality; that there would probably never be a war to end all wars. They also recognized that the veterans of World War II and the Korean War also deserved a day to be honored and so would the veterans of conflicts that were sure to someday come. Accordingly, President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared that Armistice Day would henceforth be called “Veteran’s Day,” in honor not just of the veterans of World War I, but all American veterans, of all wars.
Today, we take this day to commemorate and celebrate the bravery, patriotism, and selflessness of our American soldiers and their families. Without their sacrifice, we would not have the freedom that is so precious to us, and a way of life that provides a beacon of hope to those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
What kind of individual must one be to take on this kind of responsibility, to make this kind of sacrifice? To serve their country and risk their lives doing so? A very rare individual, indeed. And yet, there are currently almost 19 million veterans living in this country. Which tells us what? That Americans are unique. That the country is made up of many individuals who possess the character traits of courage and selflessness. While American soldiers have often been called upon to protect and defend America’s interests, they have just as often been called upon to defend the freedoms of people living halfway around the world. No other nation on the planet is as willing to protect those who cannot protect themselves than the United States. And no individuals on this planet are more willing to make that sacrifice than the American soldier. It is for this reason – among others – that American veterans are the embodiment of what is best about our country.
Here at Uncle John’s Pride, we’ll be honoring the brave men and women who serve, and have served, our country in times of both war and peace. We call it a celebration because they are here, still with us, and deserve that honor. That is worth celebrating. We’ll also take the time, and hope that you will, too, to do something tangible. Do something special for a veteran you know. Attend your local Veteran’s Day parade and show your support. Find an organization that helps veterans in need and donate time or treasure. It is our duty as Americans to show, as Washington said, that our veterans “are appreciated by their nation.”