Fifty-five years ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued America’s first Veterans Day Proclamation. In it, President Eisenhower called on all 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 re-consecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.”
In 2009, we continue to honor those brave Americans who have served our nation in uniform; some 48 million men and women whose service spans our history — from the War for Independence to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our Veterans Day observance has evolved over the years. Our nation’s custom of observing the end of World War I in 1918 at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month became a legal holiday known as Armistice Day in 1938. In recognition of military service members’ sacrifices in World War II and Korea, the name of the holiday was changed to Veterans Day so that, as President Eisenhower said, “a grateful nation might pay appropriate homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much to the preservation of this nation.”
This year on Veterans Day 2009, we honor not only those who fought in our nation’s wars, but all who took that solemn oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies” as members of America’s armed forces.
Of course, we remember and honor the more than 1.1 million patriots who have died while in military service to America. We must never forget them, or the 24 million other American veterans who passed on since their service. But the beauty of Veterans Day is that we take the time to remember and thank those who have defended us, or stood ready to do so, while they are still with us.
And more than 23 million veterans are still here with us. Three-fourths of them served during time of war; all of them served and all deserve our gratitude!!