- - Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The next time someone asks you why we celebrate Veterans Day, remind them that a nation that does not honor its veterans may not have its freedom for very long.

Those men and women willing to risk their lives for America are the key to our freedom and independence.

This truth about the central role of veterans goes all the way back to the very first confrontation between the American militia and the British Army in April of 1775. As many historians have noted, a disarmed rabble would have been crushed by the British Army. The Redcoats had put down rebellions in England, Scotland and Ireland. Those rebellions, however, had not involved citizens who voluntarily organized and trained as a militia and had the weapons to protect themselves.

The first American veterans were those brave settlers in Massachusetts who stood up to one of the strongest armies in the world and drove it back to Boston with significant casualties.

General George Washington knew the importance of veterans in securing our freedom. By December of the next year, 1776, he led a small army of fewer than 2,500 men. One third lacked boots, and they wrapped burlap bags around their feet, leaving in the snow a trail of blood. They crossed the ice-filled Delaware River on Christmas night to march nine miles and surprise a professional German unit at Trenton. This heroic effort led to a decisive victory and kept the American Revolution alive.

Two generations later, President Abraham Lincoln recognized that the Union had survived only because of the courage of countless veterans. As he said in the closing paragraph of his Second Inaugural: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

We honor Veterans Day because we recognize the importance of those who, in Lincoln’s words, “have borne the battle.”

Today we are reminded that young men and women all around the world are risking their lives to protect America and preserve our freedom.

Veterans Day is the time to remember that without veterans we would not be safe and we would not be free.

The impetus to remember veterans every year began with the “war to end all wars” — tragically, better known today as the First World War. It came to an end 97 years ago this week, on Nov. 11, 1918. The next year, President Woodrow Wilson declared the anniversary to be Armistice Day, a time for Americans to reflect on and honor those who served in the Great War.

Today we celebrate this holiday as Veterans Day. (Congress renamed it after World War II to recognize that the century had produced an entirely new generation of veterans.) Now the day commemorates veterans of all wars.

This Veterans Day, take a moment and remember the 240 years of American veterans who have served and fought for freedom, independence, and security.

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