Since 1919, Americans have been celebrating a very special day on Nov. 11. Monday is Veterans Day. It is a day of acknowledgment. It is a day of utmost respect and reverence. It is a day of thanks for those who helped pay the price for freedom. Please appreciate that sentiment. We stress this message each year.
Originally called Armistice Day, President Wilson first declared Nov. 11 a day of remembrance following the end of hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in World War I on Nov. 11, 1918. President Wilson set the tone of observance with the following words: "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..."
Following World War II, President Eisenhower renamed Armistice Day to Veterans Day, expanding the day of memory to commemorate the sacrifices of all those who have served their country.
Those who fought in the World War II - a war fought on both sides of the globe - belong to the greatest generation in the history of the United States. That is indisputable. But we are losing a very precious commodity in our country: WWII veterans. According to the United States Veterans Administration, at the end of that war the nation was the proud home to nearly 16 million veterans. Today, that number stands at 1,700,000. By 2036, it is estimated there will be no living veterans of World War II left to recount their experiences. A veteran of WWII is dying every two minutes - some 600 per day across our nation. Four years ago about 815 veterans on average were dying each day. Veteran Affairs spokesman Ozzie Garza said: "The number is decreasing because, of course, there's fewer World War II veterans alive now." Today, the average age of a World War II vet is 92. A once vast but now dwindling yet still wonderful national resource that is a WWII veteran is vanishing. That is sad.
Add to that there are nearly 700 Korean and Vietnam wars veterans passing daily. The youngest a World War II vet could possibly be would - what? - say, pushing 90. Passage of time has taken so many of them from us but we must refuse to let it ever take the memories of their heroism and sacrifices away from us. Those old enough must never forget and those old enough must continue to teach our young about commitment and sacrifice.?
During the past several days, many schools and community groups paid respects to our veterans. Others will do so tomorrow. Good for them and good for our conscientious teachers who impart knowledge into their students so that all the efforts on the battlefields, on the shores and on the mighty oceans will never be lost among future generations. And shame on any teacher or school not stressing Veterans Day.
You shouldn't have had to be around during World War II to understand and appreciate what our service men and women did for us during the most pivotal period in our nation's history. Same with the Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq wars. We must preserve and cherish the heritage created by our country -minded veterans - those who served during times of strife and those serving during times of peace. We must pass it down through our young. Of course we can't overlook those troops still serving diligently across the globe.
So pause tomorrow. Reflect and be grateful. The democratic ideals that make the United States of America the finest nation in the history of mankind were forged and protected by our service men and women. Let's not ever lose sight of that. If you know a veteran, simply give him or her a few words of gratitude today; a simple thank for all they have done and sacrificed. And if you are a veteran, thank you very much. We humbly salute you.