Honoring America’s Heroes
By: Senator Bill Heath (R-Bremen)
Each year, we celebrate Veterans Day on the second Monday of November to pay tribute to the courageous men and women of our armed forces. These selfless individuals are our nation’s greatest heroes, and many have paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedom.
The celebration of Veterans Day can be traced back to the armistice that was signed between Germany and the Allied nations on November 11, 1918. This armistice, which was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in Compiègne, France, was the beginning of a peace agreement that led to the end of World War I.
The following year, November 11th was declared as Armistice Day by President Woodrow Wilson to recognize the soldiers who valiantly risked their lives serving on the Western front. Twenty years later on May 13, 1938, Armistice Day became a federal holiday.
The Armistice signed between the Allied Powers and Germany was viewed by many as the truce declaring the “war to end all wars” was over. But history shows us that America and her allies have endured several wars since the early 20th Century and continue to face conflict today. From World War II to the present struggles in the Middle East, millions of Americans have placed their lives in harm’s way defending our Republic.
On June 1, 1954, President “Ike” Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming Armistice Day as Veterans Day. Prior to this declaration, Armistice Day only commemorated veterans who served during World War I.
For over a century, America has enjoyed a rich heritage of freedom thanks to men and women who risked everything for the sake of liberty. Freedom is not free and has come at a high cost. Instead of driving to the office each day and going home to their families at night, our military work in war zones where danger is present around every corner.
Our nation’s veterans truly understand the meaning of sacrifice, and their devotion to duty makes them a source of inspiration for us all. The military builds men and women of character who don’t abandon their principles after hanging up their uniform, rank and insignia.
During the recent government shutdown, a crowd of proud war veterans stormed the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. in protest of the government shutdown and closure of commemorative war memorials. Coincidently, these same veterans who stormed the shores of Normandy during World War II are now trying to defend the very Memorial that was erected in their honor.
Why did the federal government spend so much money to construct barricades in order to keep veterans away from their own Memorials? And, equally worth noting, does this signal a loss of liberty and the underpinnings of a future authoritarian-style government? I’ll let you decide. But, one thing is certain; the loss of liberty in America is no longer coming from oppressive overseas regimes, but the hands of our own government.
This Veterans Day, we must never forget what it means to be free. Take a moment to pause and reflect on the brave men and women who risked everything to protect us against tyranny and oppression.
We can only remain free if we consciously remember the trials of the past and use history as our guide. We’ve seen great nations rise and fall as a result of people standing quiet in the midst of great adversity. Our nation’s servicemen and women continually lay their lives down to keep our homeland safe and preserve our ideals–even when it isn’t popular. We must do the same if we hope to pass this heritage of freedom on to future generations.
Ronald Reagan said, “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they ever made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem.” Regardless of the branch served, every veteran has left a lasting legacy for future generations. It is now up to us whether we continue to uphold the values and principles that our servicemen and women fought so hard to protect.
This Veterans Day, you can show support for our veterans by proudly displaying the American flag, attending a Veterans Day parade or simply taking a moment to thank a veteran for their selfless service to this county. Veterans have served our nation faithfully and deserve our respect, honor and gratitude.
May God continue to bless our veterans and their families and protect our men and women still serving overseas.