Paying homage to all American veterans

Maj. Gen. Bennie E. Williams
21st Theater Support Command

***image1***Veterans Day has withstood changes to both its name and observance date, yet the basic sentiment behind this period of reverence has remained constant – to honor the men and women, both past and present, who serve our country during times of war and peace.

Originally called Armistice Day in honor of the truce that ended World War I, the holiday was first proclaimed in 1926. It was to be held on Nov. 11, (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – when the 1918 truce was signed) to commemorate the horrific conflict optimistically referred to as “The War to End All Wars.” The day was declared a national holiday in 1938.

Sadly, only one year passed before the supposedly lasting peace was shattered with the onset of World War II. Three years later, U.S. forces entered the fray.

A decade later, in June 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill renaming Armistice Day as Veterans Day to pay homage not only to the American Expeditionary Forces of World War I, but to the veterans of World War II and all of America’s other wars.

The reason for this staunch support is that any American who wears a military uniform, regardless of branch or rank, has shown to the American public the noblest tradition – the tradition of service before self. These have been the watch words of the U.S. military since the days of Valley Forge, where thousands of patriots suffered terribly through the winter of 1776 in order to provide America with a real chance for independence. Whether serving on land, at sea, or in the air, all servicemembers share the belief that actions speak louder than words – that vigilance and selfless service are the eternal price of maintaining freedom both at home and around the world.

Now, with the Global War on Terrorism, our military confronts an enemy with an enduring and passionate hatred for our culture and way of life. The horrors of Sept. 11 and its aftermath have demonstrated that we cannot take our country’s past peace and prosperity for granted. Our veterans have always known this; they realized long ago that freedom is not free.

I ask each of you to show your appreciation to those who uphold the legacy of our brave veterans – the troops currently serving America at home and abroad. America has learned from the past that our servicemembers both need and warrant our support. Remember them and their contributions to the cause of freedom – not only on Veterans Day – but whenever possible.