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Thank you, veterans

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Today is a significant national holiday — in which America honors all men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces.

Veterans Day provides an opportunity for communities and individual citizens to recognize and thank the people who wore the uniform in the service of our country. We need to do so.

The holiday should be distinguished from Memorial Day, which solemnly remembers people who died while serving in America’s armed forces. Veterans Day extends the country’s appreciation to all individuals, living and deceased, who have served.

Veterans Day is derived from Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918, when hostilities ceased toward the end of World War I. What was called “the war to end all wars” did not itself officially end until June 28, 1919, when the Allied nations and Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles. But the combatants had agreed to a temporary truce, or armistice, that began on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

The following year, President Woodrow Wilson established Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day, saying: “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 ...”

In 1938, Congress made Nov. 11 of each year “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day.” For a few years, the holiday primarily celebrated veterans of World War I.

Then came World War II, the largest mobilization of military forces in American history, and the Korean War, which saw Americans combat aggression in Korea from 1950-1953. In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, Ala., lobbied to expand Armistice Day to honor all veterans.Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower agreed with the idea and as U.S. president in 1954 signed a bill into law changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day, thus broadening the purpose of the holiday to recognize all veterans.

Much has happened since then. But one thing has remained constant.

Through the years, from the Cold War to the Age of Terror, from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, American military personnel have done their duty faithfully. Certainly we in Northern New York, having witnessed the valor of the 10th Mountain Division, are well aware of the sacrifices our troops and their families make.

It is important for the nation to join together today to appreciate its veterans of all ages, regardless of whether they answered the call to service when the country was at war or at peace.

Each veteran has his or her individual story of service, each their own reason for serving. Yet most share some common ideals — love of country, a sense of duty, courage, honor, devotion to a cause greater than oneself, a willingness to give back to America, and faith in the nation’s highest values.

Our nation has been favored with many things — its Constitution and democratic ideals, a foundation for responsive government, an enterprising and resourceful citizenry, an abundance of natural resources. Among these blessings is the willingness of men and women through the generations to defend our country, carry out its foreign policy and uphold freedom.

We thank and honor our veterans for guarding and protecting all that America holds dear.

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