VA Secretary Extends Veterans Day Thanks
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2005 As the nation observes Veterans Day Nov. 11, the best thanks it can offer its 25 million veterans is to ensure they receive all benefits they're entitled to and that wounded veterans have the tools they need to continue living productive, fulfilling lives, the Veterans Affairs secretary said.
Americans have a long history of recognizing their veterans, R. James Nicholson said during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service. It's an appreciation rooted in the American Revolution, when Gen. George Washington noted the "debt of gratitude ... and honor" the nation owed its troops who fought for and won independence, he said.
Abraham Lincoln underscored that commitment during his second inaugural address, pledging to care for "him who has borne the battle, and his window and his orphan," the secretary said. Today, these words are inscribed at the entrance to the Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters here.
Eighty-six years after President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11, 1919, the first Armistice Day -- later named Veterans Day -- the American people and their president remain solidly behind their veterans and their servicemembers, Nicholson said.
"The American people have a deep and abiding gratitude for those who have raised their hand, put on the uniform, gone wherever asked and done whatever asked to preserve (our) way of life ... and ... our freedom," he said.
Nicholson called Veterans Day a fitting time for Americans to pause and reflect on the contributions its 55 million veterans have made to their country.
"It is good that Americans are reminded through this national holiday that we need to stop and think and take time and reflect and be grateful for what all of those men and women have done for us so that we have this wonderful freedom that we enjoy in this country and this tremendous way of life," he said.
It's also important that the nation continue its longstanding support for veterans through benefits and services delivered through his department, Nicholson said. That includes top-quality medical care, compensation for service-related disabilities, jobs and training programs, and other benefits, including cemetery services, he said.
It also means welcoming the country's newest veterans, many of them veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and helping those with injuries heal and move forward with their lives, he said. That's a commitment Nicholson said extends year-round at the VA, in peacetime and during war. "Every day is Veterans Day at the VA," he noted.
As VA secretary, Nicholson said, he leads the American people in expressing appreciation this Veterans Day to those who have served in the armed forces. "I'm saying, 'thank you' to veterans and to their families for all the service that they have done for our country (and) in protecting our freedom," he said.