Veterans Day began as way to honor the soldiers killed in WWI. In 1918, on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month Germany signed the Armistice thereby ending the First World War. The following year, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day by saying:
"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, 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."
Although no longer called Armistice Day, Veterans Day continues to be a day set aside to honor our military servicemen and women. From the Revolutionary War to the continued Afghan War, as a country we offer pride and gratitude for those who have chosen to fight for our freedom.
In preparation for writing this piece, I started thinking about what sets a soldier apart from a civilian. What makes a soldier a soldier?
Is it in their training? We all know the strict training regiment soldiers must adhere to, but does the training make a soldier? In both the Revolutionary and Civil War, most of the young men and women involved in the conflicts had no training; yet they showed bravery and heroism in battle on a level matching the more training intensive servicemen and women of today.
If not from training, does being a good goldier come from family history? There are families where it seems being a soldier is just ingrained in their make-up. Yet, family history cannot answer to all the good soldiers in our country’s history. President Eisenhower, one of this country’s most effective generals, was raised by a family vehemently opposed to warfare of any kind. And Colin Powell, retired Four Star General and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came from a family with no military history, yet he held the highest military position in the Department of Defense.
Or does it come down to instinct? Is it an instinctive thing to want to run towards battle instead of away? Natural instincts may play a role in a soldier’s make-up, but I’ve also spoken to many good soldiers that had to be forced into battle… No, they weren’t instinctively drawn to the task at hand; in fact, like many people reading this today, they would have rather turned and run the other way.
And herein lies what I believe makes a soldier… It is not about what sets them apart; it is in what makes them the same as you and I. The soldiers we honor today are our fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. They are our uncles and aunts, children and grandchildren. They are Democrat and Republican, believers and non-believers, every race, creed, and background. They have the same fears and shortcomings, yet they choose to stand and fight for us, because they are us...Americans.
On this day of honor, let us not forget that every man or woman who has served our country, has done so because they are American. Not because they are any different than anyone else, but because they are the same… And for that, we are truly thankful and proud!