Today, the United States honors its veterans for their service to country and calls upon Americans to rededicate themselves to peace.
It is appropriate that the supreme commander of allied forces during World War II would later sign a document designating Nov. 11 as Veterans Day.
In the 1954 proclamation, then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower set out to honor veterans without glorifying the devastating effects of war.
“On that day,” Eisenhower’s proclamation reads, “let us 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.”
When the proclamation was made, the sacrifices from two world wars and the Korean War were still fresh on the minds of most Americans. During World War I, almost 5 million total military members served worldwide. During World War II, the number swelled to more than 16 million. The Korean War involved almost 6 million service members.
Soldiers who left the states to fight the nation’s battles returned home veterans who had learned more than they ever wanted to know about war.
They had fought to restore peace and, like Eisenhower, their hope was that peace would prevail.
Unfortunately in the nearly six decades since the Korean War ended, the United States has enjoyed only about 36 years of peace.
Even as we celebrate Veterans Day, thousands of our troops face dangers in Afghanistan, Iraq and other hot spots around the world.
When these troops return home to join the approximately 21.5 million existing veterans in the United States, they will need the same welcome, dignity and opportunities that others who served with honor deserved.
Veterans Day is intended to thank living veterans for their service, and it extends to anyone who has served honorably in the military in times of war or peace.
Today, we salute the newest veterans as we do the millions of others who have served their nation.
We also remind our fellow Americans and our leaders that while war may be inevitable it should always be the last resort. We can best honor our veterans by maintaining the peace that they fought so hard to obtain.