Armistice Day: November 11, 1918, the Allies and Germans sign an agreement or “armistice” ending “the war to end all wars,” World War I. A year later, President Woodrow Wilson declared that November 11 should be observed as Armistice Day with this purpose: “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.”
Sadly, World War I did not free us from “the thing” of tyranny and armed conflict, and the “war to end all wars” was followed by other wars. After World War II, in 1954, President Eisenhower proclaimed November 11 as a day to honor veterans of all wars — Veterans Day.
Veterans Day 2006 seems particularly poignant. Thousands of American military personnel are currently serving our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan; nearly 3,000 have given their lives in these twin wars, and thousands more now bear grievous wounds. We owe them deep gratitude and great respect.
Just four days ago, a majority of American voters declared their discontent with these wars — not at all as an act of disloyalty to the troops, but rather, as a statement of genuine care and concern for the men and women who have sacrificed so much. Voters across the nation expressed their patriotism through the ultimate act of democracy, casting ballots that said, “Enough!” We must find other means to protect our national security and defend the world against terrorism.
Like many men of the “Greatest Generation” — those who lived through the Depression and World War II — my father was a veteran, serving in the Army in the Philippines in World War II. Today I remember him most especially, along with all of the soldiers and sailors and other military personnel whose patriotism and devotion to duty provide an essential bulwark for freedom to prevail. Let’s remember all of the troops who are spending today in dangerous places, and pray for their safety and speedy return home.