Why we celebrate

Eighty-four years ago today, an armistice was signed between the Allied and Central Powers which ended four years of devastating war in Europe that had resulted in casualties and loss of life never before seen in the history of the world.

It was through that agreement signed in Rethondes, France at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918 that those who survived the carnage of what would become known as World War I, would set out to achieve an everlasting peace. This occasion would be celebrated a year later as “Armistice Day” when local towns and big cities would have parades of veterans while political leaders of the time would make speeches about our responsibility to maintain the peace which was fought so hard to attain.

Armistice Day would become a federal holiday in 1938 celebrating the end of the First World War on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The peace which came at the conclusion of the “war to end all wars” was short lived as America and countries throughout the world would be involved in yet another great war. Wars have since persisted around the globe which changed the original focus of Armistice Day.

Congress established “Veterans Day” in 1954 following the lead of Emporia, Kan., which had proclaimed Nov. 11 Veterans Day a year earlier. The focus shifted toward our country’s military veterans who had served the United States and fought the wars so that many of us could enjoy the peace.

Today, Veterans Day is the day we celebrate and honor those who gave of themselves to protect America by serving in the armed forces. While Memorial Day honors those who died serving their country, Veterans Day pays tribute to all those who served.

While some who served their country never made it back home to enjoy the peace, many did. It is the veterans who hung up their uniforms and went out to help forge a stronger nation. Veterans continue to make up a strong segment of our workplace and community. Veterans are firemen and policemen. Veterans are school teachers, civil servants and small business owners.

Veterans are driving the trucks, paving the roads and fixing the cars. Veterans are writing books, singing hymns and coaching our children. Veterans are the home builders, the engineers, the homemakers and the moms, dads and grandparents.

Veterans should be honored for serving their country unselfishly in war and in peace during the prime of their lives. But it’s often what our veterans do after their service that is the least recognized yet most important. And that is why we celebrate Veterans Day.

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