Throughout our history, hundreds of thousands of brave men and women have answered the call to serve in the United States military. For those who volunteer, this choice comes at a cost unlike any other. But it is because of their willing service and sacrifice on our behalf that we get to enjoy the benefits of living in a safe and secure nation. Without question, we owe a constant debt of gratitude to generations of veterans who have faithfully defended our precious freedom.
On Veterans Day, we rightly honor those who have selflessly served, but during this year’s observance, we also solemnly remembered an important marker in history. More than a century has passed since the beginning of the First World War, which is often called the “war to end all wars.” Those who went into this fight likely expected adventure and newfound freedom—never imagining the extent of what was ahead. Instead, they ended up being involved in the deadliest conflict of all time and an unprecedented catastrophe that has shaped the modern world ever since.
It has now been 100 years since the tragic conflict ended through an armistice signed between Allies and Germany at 11 a.m. Nov. 11, 1918. Exactly a year after this peace agreement, Allied nations honored the 10 million military deaths and approximately 7 million civilian deaths by remembering the tragedy through Armistice Day. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed into law legislation that expanded the observance to “all veterans, veterans’ organizations and the entire citizenry (who) will wish to join hands in the common purpose.” As a result, Veterans Day rightly recognizes those who served in all past and present conflicts—including World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and in the Middle East.
Today, there are more than 21 million veterans living in the United States, including nearly 66,800 in the Fourth Congressional District of Oklahoma. Just as they volunteered to protect our nation both at home and abroad, so do we have a duty to them upon their return from combat. And we should always remember those who did not make it home, showing our support for their grieving families and loved ones in our communities.
Without question, promises to our veterans must be kept. Following their honorable service to our country, that fulfilled promise must include quality and reliable care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Looking back on the work of the current Congress, I am pleased to report that lawmakers worked together in a bipartisan manner to advance several pieces of legislation signed into law, ensuring our veterans receive the benefits they have earned.
While we dedicate special time on Veterans Day to remember the men and women who have shown the utmost patriotism and love of country, we should strive to honor them every day.