For nearly 100 years, America has been celebrating on November 11. Originally it was to remember the end of the First World War that was supposed to be the one that would end them all. Sadly, this was not the case. In 1952, a small town in Kansas started to use the date to remember veterans of all America’s wars. Two years later, President Dwight Eisenhower recognized the brilliant stroke of a small group of “regular” Americans by making it a national holiday.
Some cynics today would say we should grow past the parades and the thousands of memorial ceremonies in small parks across America. May it never be so! Every generation of Americans has had men and women step forward and stand for this nation. Every new generation needs to learn to acknowledge the debt the nation owes them.
As we honor those who have died in the service of the nation on Memorial Day, we must acknowledge those who have served on Veterans Day.
The living veterans of America are a treasure. They are a repository of knowledge and experience, of loss, and of enormous achievement. On Veterans Day, America should reach out to these humble men and women and say “Thank you.” Beyond that, we should ask them to share their stories. When they speak, we should listen, and recognize the price these veterans paid through their service.
Try it; ask them to tell you, and for every high-sounding “hero” story you might hear, you will hear hundreds of tales that will begin with “I was just doing my job” or “I only did what anyone would have done.” In truth, these are tales of exceptional heroism in its truest sense. These heroes are not all barrel-chested characters of fiction, but citizen servants who simply answered the call, every time.
One such individual is Major Ben Richards. He has a moving story to tell about his soldiers. In an excerpt from the forthcoming film Veteran Nation, his story reminds us of the honor and sacrifice of those who serve. This film will be a touchstone for Americans who want to serve those who serve the country.
On this hallowed day, for that is what Veterans Day is, please join us in thanking those who have served and those who serve us still. Our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters, and friends—Americans showing us all that standing united is far more important than any of the issues that divide us.