Nearly 90 years ago, President Woodrow Wilson, filled with what he described as “solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service,” established what was then called Armistice Day. It has since been commemorated each year on November 11th -- the date that the guns fell silent in World War I, the conflict that was supposed to be the “war to end all wars.”
But as we know, history did not work that way. In every era since, freedom has been threatened, and a new generation has stepped forward in freedom’s defense. In another world war and in subsequent campaigns against tyrants and totalitarians of various stripes, tens of millions of our citizens would be called on to, again, serve our nation in difficult, distant, and dangerous battlefields across the globe.
Some came home to ticker-tape parades. Others faced a more difficult homecoming. Many never returned. All served. All sacrificed. All deserve our thanks and respect.
And today, on what is now called “Veterans Day,” our nation pauses -- as we should -- in solemn remembrance and deep appreciation.
It is worth considering how those who follow will remember you, and this current generation of warriors in the decades ahead.
· They will remember that after our homeland was attacked on September 11th, you took the fight to the enemy, far from our shores, to make it more difficult for them to again strike America here at home;
· They will remember the tens of thousands of young Americans who volunteered to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces every year, knowing full well the sacrifices and the dangers involved;
· And they will remember the compassion and restraint exercised by our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in the face of near constant provocation from ruthless enemies, while in the unforgiving glare of a 24-hour global media.
So this coming weekend, reflect in pride on your service and on your accomplishments. And if you meet a veteran -- whether a parent, a sibling, a friend, or even a stranger -- thank them for all they have done for all of us -- for our military and our country.
And please know that it is the high privilege of my life to serve with you. America is deeply in your debt.
May God bless you and your families, and all of America’s veterans.