By Karim Elsayed | State Budget Solutions

vetsday2015Today we honor all the brave men and women who served in our nation’s military. America’s servicemen and women have fought to defend the nation’s vital interests, and most importantly, our freedoms. While Veterans Day is celebrated by millions, its origin, like that of our nation’s military, is not widely known.

Veterans Day wasn’t always called “Veterans Day.” Its predecessor, Armistice Day, commemorated the end of the First World War, on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

A year later, President Woodrow Wilson issued the following proclamation: “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, Armistice Day was officially declared a national holiday, to memorialize the end of the “war to end all wars.” Just one year later, another World War broke out, and by 1941, our nation again joined the Allies in combat around the globe.

The nature and scope of World War II required a massive, unprecedented call to military service. Following the war, the nation had more living veterans than ever before in its history. In 1954, to honor them as well, Armistice Day was renamed to include all veterans.

Since then, Americans have been called to serve in various conflicts around the world – from Korea, to Vietnam, to Iraq. Even in the absence of war, it is our nation’s men and women in uniform who must deter, and if needed, respond to new threats – and you never know what is just around history’s corner.

As José N. Harris beautifully put it: “A veteran is someone, who at one point in their life, wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to, and including, their life.”

God bless our veterans, and God bless America.

Karim Elsayed, a policy fellow at State Budget Solutions, is a veteran of the United States Navy.

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