As a student of history my adult life, my thoughts today go back 55 years and 358 days before November 11th, 1919, the first observance of Armistice Day or what is now known as Veterans Day.
The day was November 19th, 1863 at the Consecration of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In part of his two-minute address, President Lincoln noted, “But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men and women1, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here”.
And it is that remembrance that we honor and celebrate today.
We are fortunate that there exists a long list of federal, state, local, and private organizations whose missions and objectives are to ensure that we never forget the sacrifices made by the brave men and women who have donned the uniform. These associations maintain the physical historical references and features, and preserve the memories of the ‘where’s’ at places like Bemis Heights at the Saratoga National Historical Park, the 83rd Pennsylvania monument at Little Round Top, and the Normandy American Cemetery at Coleville sur Mer overlooking Omaha Beach.
Today, we honor and remember ‘those and what they did’. If you know a veteran, active duty, reservist, or cross paths with one stop and thank them for their service. If you happen by a gravesite with a military marker or American flag flying, stop and extend a moment of silence and prayer. As Presidents Lincoln and Wilson intentioned, it’s the least we can do.
On this 103rd commemoration of Veterans Day, we honor and thank all the men and women who have made, and continue to make, the selfless commitment to serve these United States, and solemnly remember those that “gave the last full measure of devotion”.
May God bless them, always!
1 – The addition of ‘women’ added by the author