Veterans Day recognizes price of freedom
By Randy Saunders , 50th Space Wing Historian
/ Published November 02, 2007
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
The Boston and Western campaigns. The Battle of New Orleans. Texas. Bull Run and Gettysburg. San Juan Hill, Mexico. Belleau Wood and Muesse-Argonne, France. Normandy, France and Okinawa, Japan. The Chosin Reservoir in Korea. Khe Sahn and the A Shau Valley in Vietnam. Lebanon. Grenada. Panama. Saudi Arabia. The Pentagon. Tora Bora, Afghanistan. Falluja and Anbar Province, Iraq. These battlefields bring to my mind some of the countless places Americans have fought and died to protect the United States and its sovereignty.
Individual acts and occasional proclamations by Congress or local governments, in the early years of our republic, had honored those whose sacrifices in numerous campaigns and operations had furthered the security of American liberties and freedoms. However, an official national holiday recognizing the sacrifices of America's veterans would be nearly 150 years in the making.
On the first anniversary of the World War I armistice that ended combat operations of the First World War, which had raged primarily in Europe and the Mediterranean, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation commemorating the first Armistice Day. He declared, "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 has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the council of the nations."
In 1927, the Congress asked President Calvin Coolidge to call on officials to display the national flag at half-mast on all government buildings Nov. 11 and to invite the people of the United States to observe the day. A decade later, Congress codified the holiday, passing a bill May 13, 1938 marking Armistice Day as Nov. 11 each year as a day to honor veterans of the Great War and as a day dedicated to world peace. At the request of veterans' organizations and led by Ed Reese of Emporia, Kansas, Congress passed legislation in May 1954 amending the original 1938 law and changing the name of the holiday to Veterans Day. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill on June 1, 1954.
From 1971 through 1977, the date of Veterans Day varied because of passage of the Uniform Holiday Bill in 1968. However, public concern regarding the historic and patriotic significance of the Nov. 11 date led President Gerald Ford to sign Public Law 94-97 in 1978, returning the remembrance to its original date.
In America's history, more than 1.2 million servicemembers and civilians supporting them have died in conflict. Countless others have been wounded, and millions of others have served. The sacrifices of these men and women have helped America defeat tyranny, protect her sovereignty and liberty, and bring freedom to millions of people around the world.
We have all heard the phrase, "Freedom is not free." Indeed, freedom is bought and paid for by the men and women whose dedication to the ideas of freedom and liberty leads them to service to our great nation.