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Veterans Day Message from the Secretary of Defense

National Guard Bureau

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2001 – Eighty-three years ago, an armistice was signed between the Allies and the Central Powers. As the guns of both the victors and the vanquished fell silent, World War I -- "The War to End All Wars" -- slipped into history.

For the next twenty years, "Armistice Day" was celebrated with parades and speeches, simple ceremonies and sacred observances. For many years, buglers played "Taps" at 11 o'clock at the main intersections of towns across America or the village greens -- I was one of them. And for two minutes, all the traffic and daily transactions ceased as citizens stopped to honor those who had fallen in the defense of liberty.

Today, we celebrate "Veterans Day," but while the name has changed, its meaning and purpose remain the same. It is a day to honor and to remember those who died and those we are blessed to still have with us.

Their collective experience -- from the gas-filled trenches of World War I to the deserts of the Persian Gulf -- covers much of the turmoil and change of the 20th century. Their stories are the story of our history, for America rose to greatness on their shoulders.

But Veterans Day is also a day to honor and to recognize not just the Greatest Generation, but the latest generation -- those who today wear the uniform and bear the responsibility for defending freedom and protecting our American way of life. And while this is true even when the country is at peace, it is particularly so when America is -- as it is now -- at war.

Like the thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who went before, you have dedicated yourselves to the strength and survival of our nation, and willingly placed yourselves in danger to secure peace and freedom. In so doing, you have assumed the highest responsibility of citizenship, and your country is grateful. Never forget that you serve in the finest military in the greatest nation on Earth, a military and a nation dedicated not to oppression, but to freedom.

Today we celebrate and salute the men and women who have served so gallantly over the decades to keep us free. We offer them our love, our thanks and our promise that we will never forget their valor or their sacrifice.

We offer the same to you, as you voluntarily put your lives at risk so that we may all live in freedom.

God bless you and God bless America.

Donald H. Rumsfeld

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