As we approach Veterans Day (Nov. 11), I’d like to take a moment to recount its history.
Nov. 11 was originally known as Armistice Day. On that day in 1918 — in a railroad carriage near Rethondes, France — the combatants involved in the First World War (WWI) signed the terms ending a bloody conflict that killed an estimated 20 million soldiers and civilians. The day is still observed as an official holiday in Belgium and France.
Between 1919 and 1953, Armistice Day was a holiday in the U.S. as well. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill establishing Veterans Day on Nov. 11 as a way “to honor veterans” on “a day dedicated to world peace.” Between 1971 and 1977, Veterans Day was observed on the fourth Monday in October. It was restored to its traditional date in 1978.
Regardless of when it is observed, Veterans Day is an occasion to express gratitude to all those men and women who have served honorably in our Armed Forces.
It is also a time to remember those who never returned home. In WWI, WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam a total of 634,328 men and women died while fighting in the service of our country. Thus far, an additional 3,848 men and women have laid down their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom and 383 have died carrying out Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan).
Our nation will always have enemies to confront. We will always have to send some of our best people to fight these battles. And we will always owe these soldiers and their families a debt we can never fully repay. On Nov. 11, we should remember that.
State Rep. Greg Hastings (R-41st)