A Veteran’s Reflection on Veteran’s Day
Today, as our Nation pauses to honor its veterans, some Americans are enjoying a day off of work… some are cashing-in on some internet and retail sales presumptuously named after the federal holiday… and others are actually reflecting on what this day means to our Nation and her veterans. While I don’t claim to speak on behalf of all veterans, I’m not soliciting for any charity or cause and I’m not prodding anyone to go out of their way to “thank a vet.” After 20 years of serving our Nation, however, I feel compelled to share a few thoughts on Veteran’s Day from the perspective of just this one veteran. I believe the veteran’s story is a compelling one that is worth sharing… for our veterans are both a product of and protector to the families, schools and communities that raised us. In the following paragraphs, I will tell you about the history of Veteran’s Day, a very brief history of the American Veteran, and share an inter-generational message among veterans.
The story of the American Military Veteran is both unique and inextricable from the story of the United States itself. Since 1775, there have been over 49 million Americans who have served in our armed forces. This includes 31 of 44 Presidents. (Click here to view the list)
However, the impact of the American Veteran goes far beyond numbers and titles alone. Today, I would like to discuss the role and impact of the veteran on the freedoms that we enjoy. I would also like to pass a message from the current generation of veterans to those who have preceded us and those who will follow.
But first, I believe that it is important to study the importance of Veteran’s Day in the context of history.
Veteran’s Day draws its roots to the close of the First World War… when the Armistice was signed on the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month in 1918. It was first celebrated by President Woodrow Wilson on November 11, 1919, and continued through Congressional Resolutions and Presidential Proclamations every year until May 13, 1938, when it was formalized by an act of Congress which defined November 11th as: “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.” On June 1, 1954, the act was amended to replace “Armistice” with “Veterans.” It has been known as “Veteran’s Day” ever since.
While eminently important, Veteran’s Day is eclipsed by the impact of the veteran in American history. We can trace the importance and impact of the American Veteran all the way back to the very formation of our country. The seeds of bravery, selflessness and common purpose were sown by the first patriots throughout the original 13 colonies who chose “service” above “self.” They left the relative comfort of the status-quo and made the tough decision to fight against what they called “intolerable acts,” and thus rose in active rebellion against the Kingdom of Great Britain.
At great peril to themselves, they set in motion the establishment of a new and sovereign nation based on liberty, freedom and self-government. Realizing that the fledgling nation would not survive without a means of defense, the Continental Congress created the Continental Army and Continental Navy in 1775. And thus, the American Military Veteran was borne.
From the opening salvo of the American Revolutionary War at the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775 through all conflicts at home and abroad… in the fields of Europe, in the Pacific, in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan through today’s fight in countless other areas, our Veterans have exhibited that same bravery, selflessness and common purpose every time they have been called to be the “MOST READY” when the Nation was “LEAST READY.” The American Veteran always has and always will stand a vigilant watch.
I believe that we, as a Nation, need to routinely view our current liberty, freedom and prosperity through the lens of history. In doing so, we can clearly see the important role the veteran has played in both establishing and guaranteeing our freedoms… and will preserve it for generations to come.
There is no doubt that our current generation of veterans consistently exhibit the enduring virtues of honor, courage, commitment and selfless service as they have volunteered in a time of war and have been very successful in combating a complex enemy network in the most challenging environments. I believe it is important to also view the current successes through the same lens of history and recognize that our current generation of veterans did not “create success,” we inherited a legacy of steadfast devotion to duty and unfailing mission accomplishment from the generations of veterans who preceded us… and we have a solemn obligation to both preserve this legacy and pass it on to the next generation of veterans.
By taking pause to celebrate Veteran’s Day, we are simultaneously connecting the generations of veterans with each other and, more importantly, with the citizens whom we serve.
Try as we may, few of us could communicate the inextricable link between the veteran and our Nation’s freedom better than former President and fellow veteran, Ronald Reagan, who said: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” I believe it is eminently clear that the American Veteran has been at the forefront of this fight, sacrificing to preserve our freedoms, and passing them on to the next generation.
On behalf of today’s generation of veterans, I want to convey a heartfelt “thank you” to the veterans who’ve preceded us… for the service that they have provided this Nation during their time in uniform… and for their continued service in their communities. Those of us who serve today recognize that our responsibility is not only to win our current battles and preserve our freedom; we also have the solemn responsibility to maintain this tradition of excellence by developing the next generation of leaders.
Please accept a heartfelt thank you from this veteran for taking the time out of your day to read this article. As we all go back to our daily routines and the busy lives we lead, please never forget that “Freedom Is Not Free!” It comes at a cost… and it is the American Veteran who has willingly paid the price for this freedom from 1775 through the current day… and always will…
Lieutenant Colonel, USMC