To everyone who is either serves or served in the military: Thank you. Thank you a thousand times. Thank you for your work, sacrifice and keeping us safe. Thank you to your families for letting you do this and for the sacrifices they make. It may seem we take you and your actions for granted and that we care about today only because it is a day off work. That is not true. Your work makes ours possible and while saying thank you seems inadequate it is the best I can do.
Veterans day was initially intended to remember those killed during World War I. From the VA web site:
World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "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 victory, 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…" (http://www1.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp)
There is a World War I memorial in Washington, DC — http://www.flickr.com/photos/tiktok-africa/2636925512/ has a photo. Yes, it is as small in person as it looks in the photo. There’s an interesting story here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27646518/?GT1=43001.
Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day after World War II in 1954 and the original Act was amended so that the day would commemorate veterans of all US wars.
The United States is not alone in having a day to remember those who served. November 11th is called “Remembrance Day” elsewhere. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remembrance_day) including parts of Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
As 2008 closes we will have been at war for seven years, though sometimes it is far too easy for those of us without friends and family serving in Iraq and Afghanistan to forget. Unlike WWII where people were asked to do something for the war effort, aside from the debt we are building, most of us have been pretty unaffected by the war. It’s strange to think that we are fighting wars in two countries. The tragic events of 9/11 were the closest we have come to having war on our doorstep since Pearl Harbor. Today is not the day to point fingers or talk about the politics of these wars, though what got us to this point deserves the debate it will get. It is easy for me to sit in my house and talk about the military like it is some abstraction, but as cliché as it is, freedom isn’t free. When asked, the men and women of our military have gone to protect us. Far too many people, on both sides, have died or suffered terrible injuries. We have not done enough for these people. We must make sure we do better.
So thank you for your service.