Today, our nation will pause to pay tribute to our veterans, an unparalleled group of men and women who have defended our freedom and fought for countless others around the world for nearly two-and-a-half centuries.
Veterans Day is always a special time, but this year’s is even more noteworthy, since the holiday arrives exactly a century after its predecessor – Armistice Day – was first declared by President Woodrow Wilson to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the truce that effectively ended World War I in 1918.
The hope back then was that this tragic conflict would live up to its informal name, The War to End All Wars. That, of course, did not happen, and after the fighting of World War II and the Korean War, Congress and President Eisenhower expanded Armistice Day’s scope and changed its name so that it honored all who had worn our nation’s uniform.
More than 40 million people have served in our Armed Forces since our country’s founding, and about half are still with us today. It’s estimated that 295,000 of them call the commonwealth home.
At the Capitol in Frankfort, state leaders have worked hard over the years to help our veterans however we can. Since the 1990s, we’ve established a department dedicated solely to getting them the benefits and services they deserve; we’ve built an array of veterans nursing homes and state-run cemeteries to complement our national cemeteries; we’ve set aside Veterans Day as a state holiday; we’ve made it easier for veterans to become teachers, work for state government and use their military training to qualify for private-sector jobs; and we’ve awarded high school diplomas to older veterans who enlisted before they could graduate.
If you are a veteran, I want to thank you for all that you’ve done for our country and the values we stand for. Your service can never be adequately repaid, but we must make sure that it is never forgotten.
My hope is that many will be able to participate in Veterans Day events planned in the days ahead. If you are unable to attend, I encourage you to take at least a few moments next Monday to remember what our veterans did for us and future generations.
To borrow a line from Winston Churchill, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”