Veterans Day - Honoring a legacy of service

Chief Master Sgt. Dave Pesch, 50th Operations Group

Chief Master Sgt. Dave Pesch, 50th Operations Group

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

Veterans Day is a time to step back, reflect and thank our country’s veterans for the sacrifices they have made.  Below is a brief historic look to remind us all of the significance of this special day.  

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 'World War I, known at the time as ‘The Great War,’ officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of ‘the war to end all wars.’”

President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11, 1919, as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

On Nov. 11, 1921, an unidentified American soldier killed in the war was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Congress declared the day a federal holiday in honor of all those who participated in the war. On the same day, unidentified soldiers were laid to rest at Westminster Abbey in London and at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.  Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the veterans of World Wars I and II on or near Nov. 11: Canada commemorates Remembrance Day, while Britain honors Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday of November). In Europe, Britain and the Commonwealth countries, it is common to observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. every Nov. 11.

In the U.S., an official wreath-laying ceremony is held each Veterans Day at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, while parades and other celebrations are held in states throughout the country.  Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day–a common misunderstanding, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Memorial Day (the fourth Monday in May) honors American service members who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle, while Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans–living or dead–but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.

Veterans Day continues to be observed on Nov. 11, regardless of what day of the week it falls. The continued observance of Veterans Day on Nov. 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day.

The USDVA defines the day as “a celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”

According to statistics from the Department of Veterans Affairs on America’s Wars, approximately 37,633,557 total U.S. service members served throughout World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and Desert Shield/Storm.

One significant historical fact I’ve found, is the last U.S. veteran from WWI, Frank Buckles, who enlisted at age 16 and drove an ambulance for the Army, died Feb. 27, 2011. He was 110 years old.  Ninety-three years passed from the end of WWI to the death of Buckles.  If that were to be repeated, the last WWII veteran would pass away circa 2038. Time will continue to take our veterans, so we must not lose the opportunity to thank them.

During this Veterans Day, take time to honor those that have served our country with their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to sacrifice.  Let’s go out of our way to thank each and every one of them for their historic accomplishments and how their sacrifices forged the freedoms that we all enjoy today.  Our nation would not be the same, nor for that matter the world, without their service. To all veterans, we salute you.