Paying tribute to nation's heroes on Veterans Day

Having Veterans Day fall on a Thursday is a special treat for us.

Every November for several years now we have recognized veterans who live in town — or whose family lives in town — with a write-up and photo. This year we are recognizing 180 veterans on 20 pages in a special section in the center of this issue.

They span our country’s history, from the Revolutionary War to Iraq and Afghanistan. Some came home with medals and honors. Others did not come home at all.

Today we join our voices as a grateful nation to pay tribute, whether in times of conflict or in peacetime, to the service and sacrifice these patriots have rendered.

Veterans Day originated as Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Nov. 11 became a National Holiday in 1938, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the holiday’s name to Veterans Day in 1954.

Veterans Day commemorates veterans of all wars. Unlike Memorial Day, the holiday pays tribute to all veterans, with particular attention to expressing gratitude to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.

Stats from show we have many veterans to thank, including 19 million veterans who served during at least one war who were alive as of April of this year. The country is home to 933,000 veterans who served during the Korean War, 5.9 million who served during the Vietnam War and 7.8 million who served in the Gulf War era. We are fortunate to have about 240,000 of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II still with us.

Over the years, U.S. presidents have opined on Armistice Day and Veterans Day and the men and women who served this country. We can think of no better way to pay tribute to vets than to share a few of their comments.

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory.” — President Woodrow Wilson, 1919, in proclaiming Armistice Day

“I saw your sons and your husbands, your brothers and your sweethearts. I saw how they worked, played, fought and lived. I saw some of them die. I saw more courage, more good humor in the face of discomfort, more love in an era of hate, and more devotion to duty than could exist under tyranny.”

— Comedian Bob Hope, 1944, in “I Never Left Home,” his book about going on tour to entertain the troops, which he did in every U.S. conflict from World War II to the Persian Gulf War.

“Veterans know better than anyone else the price of freedom, for they’ve suffered the scars of war. We can offer them no better tribute than to protect what they have won for us.”

— President Ronald Reagan in a 1983 radio address to the nation.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”

— John F. Kennedy in his 1963 Thanksgiving proclamation, issued before his death