We honor our veterans today – Veterans Day. Do you know why? Major fighting during World War I or “The Great War” ended during the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. As a result, Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11th as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.
An Act was approved years later on May 13, 1938, making the 11th of November an annual federal holiday – known as Armistice Day. This remained until 1954, well after World War II, when it was renamed Veterans Day – making it a day to honor American veterans from all wars and conflicts.
In June, I attended a Flag Day celebration in Greenfield. During the ceremony, a group of young Iowans belonging to the Junior Optimists Club read a collection of letters that Iowa soldiers serving during World War II sent to their loved ones. Each story was very powerful and an amazing reminder of the sacrifices and struggles our men and women in uniform deal with each day. I gave a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to honor and recognize those brave individuals and the countless other service members who have put their lives on hold for our country.
I wanted to share these letters with my colleagues and enshrine them in the Congressional Record so that we and future generations may always remember the very real and human struggles our men and women face as they leave their loved ones behind to bravely serve our country with dignity, honor, and distinction.
One of these letters stood out in particular, and I read it before the House of Representatives. From a big brother to his little brother:
…When you are a little older you will know why your brother had to leave home for so long. You know we have a big country and we have ideals as to how people should live and enjoy the riches of it and how each is born with equal rights to life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately there are some countries in the world where they do not have these ideals… Because there are people in other countries who want to change our nation, its ideals, its form of government and way of life, we must leave our homes and families to fight…
The letter is worth reading.
These are the words of a brave man. And they ring as true today as they did over seventy years ago when they were written. They embody the ideals of this great nation and the ethos of our armed forces that have fought, sacrificed, and died for our country so that we can remain free.
Millions of Americans have had a conversation just like this as they left their homes and their families to serve our country. We will keep fighting here in Congress to provide our veterans with the care and support they need when they return home.
When we recognize these men and women on Veterans Day, look them in the eye and say “Thank You.” They know all too well what the words in this letter mean. And for their bravery and sacrifices, they deserve our unwavering gratitude and respect. May God bless them. And may God bless these United States of America.