A week ago in a national display of patriotic fervor, nearly 70 percent of the country's registered voters elected a new president in an election process that lies at the heart of the American democracy. Today, we honor the men and women who make this free choice possible: the 23.4 million veterans of the armed forces.
On another national holiday, Memorial Day, we honor those who fought and died to keep us free. But today we remember our war dead and honor our living veterans as part of a seamless tradition of Americans who have served around the globe so that we may be free.
We celebrate Veterans Day on this day because it marks the cessation of hostilities in what became known as World War I. At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, fighting halted while diplomats bickered over how to formally end The War to End All Wars. The formal end came seven months later but the ceasefire on Nov. 11, 1918 has been observed ever since President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day observance in 1919.
In 1954, after the service of millions more Americans in World War II and Korea, President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation changing the name to Veterans Day. He called on Americans to “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.”
Congress in 1968 proclaimed that Veterans Day would be observed on a Monday, but there was something about the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month that struck a chord – and made our people realize that was the proper time to honor veterans. President Ford signed the law restoring Veterans Day to Nov. 11, and so it has been recognized ever since.
For many Americans this is a busy time, but not so busy to fail to remember those who put their lives on the line for us around the world. Take time today to thank a veteran.