America was born out of conflict. The first line in the Declaration of Independence threw down the gauntlet. “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…”
The second sentence established precisely why the separation from England was necessary, even though it would mean war. “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The preservation and defense of those rights have required the commitment of millions of men and women, individuals in the armed forces. We set aside a day to honor all veterans who have served the country in war and in peace—Veterans Day.
The day is particularly meaningful in West Virginia because of the great number of our citizens who have worn the uniform. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 159,448 West Virginians are veterans; that’s nearly one out of every ten people, one of the highest percentages in the country.
Veterans Day is often confused with Memorial Day, but they are not the same. Memorial Day, which is observed the last Monday in May, is specifically for the reverence of soldiers who died while serving in the military.
Veterans Day started as Armistice Day—marking the end of World War I at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. In 1954 Congress included the veterans of all wars, but then made the ill-conceived decision in 1968 to move Veterans Day to a convenient Monday to create a three day weekend.
Many veterans and veteran organizations objected and continued to commemorate the day on the 11th. Finally in 1975, President Gerald Ford signed legislation moving the official recognition of Veterans Day back to the 11th.
It is certainly appropriate that we should set aside a day to honor our veterans, but it can also be argued that we should find a reason every day to show appreciation for our men and women in uniform. As President Abraham Lincoln said, “The highest merit then is due our soldier.”
Thank you for your service.