November 07, 2007

FREEDOM'S DEFENDERS, PAST AND PRESENT

By Senator Mike Crapo

 "A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

                        -John Stuart Mill

 

At the 11 th hour on the 11 th day of the 11 th month, 89 years ago, an armistice, or "cessation of hostilities" went into effect between the Allied nations and Germany. Although fighting in World War I did not officially end until the Treaty of Versailles some seven months later, November 11, 1918, became known as "Armistice Day." From 1938 until 1954, the United States celebrated "Armistice Day" as a federal holiday and, in 1954, Congress amended the original Act, striking the word "Armistice" and inserting "Veterans." On Veterans Day, we take time to honor and thank our military veterans for defending the freedom, liberty and human rights proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and safeguarded by our Constitution.  

 

In the eleven wars the U.S. has been involved in prior to the Global War on Terror (including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), over 43 million Americans served their country in uniform. As of September 30, 2006, there were 17.8 million living war veterans and 23.7 if veterans of peacetime military service were included. Currently, 1.4 million servicemen and women wear the uniform of our nation's Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard fighting the Global War on Terror. Our veterans and active duty military are our family, friends and neighbors. It's these individuals we honor on November 11, 2007. 

 

This Veterans Day, like the past few, occurs while we are at war. This makes the observance even more compelling as we help a family member, friend or acquaintance transition from active duty service overseas to civilian life, as many in Idaho have done over the past four years. Fortunately, Idaho has a strong legacy of willing veterans and volunteers in a number of organizations whose sole purpose is care and assistance of our war veterans. The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America, regional VA hospitals and homes and a multitude of other community-based and supported veterans' advocacy groups make it their mission to serve our veterans. Seek out volunteer opportunities with these and similar organizations. A few hours on a regular basis can truly make a difference in the lives of these brave men and women, and that experience will enrich you in turn. 

 

Be vigilant in serving and thanking both veterans and active duty military men and women. The war in Iraq began over four years ago and progress has been made. Free elections have taken place. The Iraqis are taking back police and military control of a number of provinces, towns and cities. Al Qaeda is, bit by bit, losing its grip in Iraq. A more stable, sustainable Iraqi government is emerging and the United States is more secure for it. This Veterans Day, we must remember that, although the war has been long, military men and women-our neighbors, friends and family-continue to place their lives on the line to defend our nation. Pray for their safety and their safe return. 

 

I offer my respectful and sincere thanks to our military and our veterans. Your valor and commitment to the preservation of the United States of America has kept the vision and future of America alive and well for me, my family, Idahoans and our nation. 

 

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