Today we remember and honor the service of men and women throughout the years in dedication to the principles of freedom and democracy that are the cornerstones of this great nation. We also celebrate the ideal that the seeds of greatness and accomplishment lie within each and every person.
This holiday began life in 1919 as Armistice Day, in recognition of the ending of World War I, with these words by President Woodrow Wilson: “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.”
But, it was a shoe store owner in Emporia, Kansas who turned this day into one honoring the service of all veterans to their country. Even though he never officially served in uniform, Al King always had a great respect for the military. He promoted his notion so much that the Chamber of Commerce of Emporia (a town not all that much larger than West Newton) decided to get involved, and businesses closed their doors that November 11, 1953, to celebrate the first-ever all-inclusive Veterans Day.
Today, many conflicts later, we recognize that those brave souls in uniform are not alone in their dedication and commitment to the ideals of this country. Spouses and family, friends and neighbors, teachers and colleagues stand behind each soldier wherever and however they serve. This holiday celebrates all of the sacrifices, large and small, of every veteran and everyone who has loved and supported a veteran.
We look forward to the day when there will be no war. We imagine, someday, children may ask their parents, “What was Veterans Day all about?” because the circumstances that cause nations to take up arms against each other with become passé, an anachronism in a world without hunger, disease, or want.
But, until that day, tyrants will arise to suck the will from the common person, and threaten our lives, our liberty, and our pursuit of happiness. Until that time, each and every one of us has a role to play defending our universal belief in human worth against those who would desecrate our humanity and defile our spirit. Whether we wear the uniform, or provide support for those that do – whether motivated by divine sources, words of inspiration, or real life heroes – our task as citizens is to remember, to honor, and to live lives of service.