November 11th is Veterans Day in America while in Europe it is still known as Armistice Day. It is a national holiday in France and Belgium. In the UK a two minute silence is observed at 11am on 11th day of the 11th month because this is when the Great War, or World War I, came to end in 1918.
Now the anniversary is used to remember everyone who died in wars. In the United States we remember the more than one million who died protecting our nation and the Free World since 1776. They are heroes, and it is for us to ensure their sacrifices are not forgotten, and by defending freedom they did not die in vain.
In his last address at West Point, General Douglas MacArthur spoke to the cadets of the soldiers who died under his command,
I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. . . . The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country. . . The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.
My friend Elizabeth Oldenburg is spending Veterans Day at the McLean Bible Church in northern Virginia stuffing Christmas stockings for the American armed forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. She is packing them with candy, anti-bacterial gel, nuts, jerky, deoderant, lip balm, etc. Our troops will not be back for Christmas but they will know that wonderful women such as Elizabeth are standing guard at home.
These volunteers are remembering the soldiers who waved goodbye to fearful spouses, confused young children, and scared parents, as well as careers, friends and homes — and said hello to unknown dangers. Civilian volunteers support, encourage and reinforce the fighting spirit of our front line troops, and they clearly represent the best sentiments for Veterans Day.
Another great way to thank a veteran, today and everyday: be aware – if you see someone wearing a ‘vet’ hat or in uniform- walk up, introduce yourself and ask if you can shake their hand. Tell them that you appreciate and honor them and their service. Be an example of gratitude.