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Honoring our veterans: Remember what Veterans Day is really about

The U.S. Strategic Command's honor guard posts the colors prior to leading members of team Offutt and tenant units in the 2011 Veterans Day parade held on Mission Avenue in Bellevue, Neb.(Josh Plueger/U.S. Air Force)

Do you know the history of the day we celebrate this Sunday — Veterans Day?

Many probably don’t remember that the day actually began as Armistice Day, celebrating the end of fighting between the allied nations and Germany on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. The following year, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 Armistice Day.

He said then, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with lots of 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.”

By 1938, the United States Congress had made Armistice Day a legal holiday, one dedicated to the cause of world peace. That act was soon amended to change the word “Armistice” to “Veterans.”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day Proclamation on Oct. 8, 1954. For a brief period in the late 1960s, the White House attempted to observe Veterans Day at a time other than Nov. 11, but citizens disagreed. So, since 1978, Veterans Day has been observed each year on the historically significant date of Nov. 11.

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History lesson aside, it is our hope that you do know what is important about Nov. 11 — that it is not just a day off from school or work.

Please remember that the entire day is one on which to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

Veterans are not an unfamiliar group of strangers or far-off historic characters; these are our neighbors, our family members and our loved ones of present and past.

Parades and other events honoring our heroes will be held. Children will wave American flags. Marching bands will play patriotic tunes. And the men and women who wear or once wore our nation’s military uniforms will be remembering their service.

It is a small tribute in light of the tremendous sacrifices veterans have made and continue to make each day for our freedom.

Veterans Day is an ideal time to thank a veteran and, perhaps, to welcome him or her back home. But our veterans deserve thanks each and every day, not just on the historically significant date of Nov. 11.

We must also remember that this special day originally celebrated a moment when fighting stopped. Peace would certainly be something worth celebrating. But until that day comes, we will celebrate those who willingly sacrifice of themselves working selflessly toward that goal.

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© 2018 the Richmond Register (Richmond, Ky.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.