At 11 p.m. Nov. 11, 1918, the guns fell silent across Europe as World War I came to an unofficial end with the signing of the armistice between the Allies and Germany. The Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, which officially ended the “Great War.”
“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,” said President Woodrow Wilson upon declaring the first Armistice Day for Nov. 11, 1919.
In 1938, Congress passed legislation making Nov. 11 a legal Federal holiday, Armistice Day. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation changing the name of the legal holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
Today, the solemn occasion is marked across the nation by parades, gatherings at memorials and other observances. These all take place against a backdrop of continued involvement of U.S. forces in conflicts in the Middle East and the ongoing fight against terrorism within our own shores.
It is often said that if you enjoy freedom, thank a veteran. This is true. Many of our brave servicemen and women have died defending our values. Many have also died assuring that others around the world have the same opportunities for freedom.
There is more, however, to our peaceful transfer of power than blood spilled on battlefields. It took many great minds to concoct a system by which our nation could easily move from one set of elected leaders to another.
Many of these thinkers were not warriors. They did risk their lives, and indeed many of the founding fathers suffered for their involvement in the American revolutionary cause.
So, it is fitting that we celebrate Veterans Day on Saturday. We must honor those who fought for this country as well as those who thought for it.
— Dale Hogg