Some phrases become forever etched in history. One that held the attention of the world when first uttered was this…At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the First World War–the Great War–came to an end. The war took an incredible toll on many nations of the world. Nine million soldiers died and 21 million were wounded. Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France, and Great Britain each lost roughly a million lives. An estimated five million civilians died from disease, starvation, or exposure. The United States entered the war in 1917, and its losses were less, but still sizeable. Over 100,000 American soldiers lost their lives. The National Guard suffered a high casualty rate.
Many nations declared a national holiday for the day the armistice was signed that ended World War I—Armistice Day. Twenty years after the war ended, Armistice Day became a legal holiday in the United States. Following World War II, the name of the holiday was changed to Veterans Day, and the nation embraced it as a day to honor all veterans.
Veterans Day continues to be a very special day of recognition for the service and sacrifice of our veterans and their families. It has always been understood that the weight of conflict is borne not only by veterans, but by those who love and care for them. At the close of World War I, Secretary of War Newton Diehl Baker captured this truth when he said, “while we rejoice that our losses were no heavier we still bear in mind the thousands of homes throughout the country upon which the heavy burden of war has fallen.”
On this Veterans Day, communities around the nation are hosting events to honor those who have served and are serving. For veterans and their families, it is, as it should be, a day of quiet pride and solemn reflection. As we reflect, we can find deep satisfaction in the many ways the nation has stepped forward to embrace its veterans.
To those serving, and those who have served, as well as those who love and support them, the history and meaning of Veterans Day continues to be written in how we as a nation service our great debt. Always, it will be a privilege to serve you, to thank you, and to wish you a happy Veterans Day.