On Nov. 11, 1921, an American soldier killed in World War I whose identity was not known was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on a hill overlooking the Potomac River. The date was significant: the armistice ending World War I took effect at 11 a.m. Nov. 11, 1918 – the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
Armistice Day, as it became known was given unofficial recognition by a Congressional resolution in1926. It was declared an official holiday 12 years later to honor the 16.5 million Americans who took part in “the war to end all wars.”
Unfortunately World War I did not end all wars and in 1941 Americans were again asked to answer the call of duty in World War II. This was followed by war in Korea. Armistice Day did not seem broad enough to recognize the new veterans created by these two wars, and in 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill changing the name of this holiday to Veterans Day.
Since the 1950s, Americans have continued to serve – and die – in many places far from home. The call has gone out and Americans have answered it. That call to duty is still going out and being answered. Even as we pause to honor our veterans this very day, young Americans – many from our community – are risking their lives in Afghanistan. Several from our area have been seriously injured and, unfortunately, some have added their names to the list of Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.
We pause this day to do something we all should do every day – honor our veterans and members of the armed forces. We do this in an official ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery at the “Tomb of the Unknowns”; and we do it in nearly every community in America. We do this because we owe these men and women who have made the sacrifice more than we can ever repay. To those veterans of past wars and to the fighting men and women of today, we say thank you for your sacrifices.