FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Veterans Day is an important day, not only for those who have served and those who continue to serve, but for every American. I strongly believe that we cannot show too much appreciation and respect for our veterans. Our country would not have the many freedoms that it has today had it not been for the tremendous courage and sacrifices of our veterans.

As always, there are a number of planned Veterans Day observances in the area. Fort Jackson will have a wreath-laying ceremony Wednesday morning.

The City of Columbia will host a Veterans Day parade Thursday, and veterans' organizations throughout the area will be marking the holiday in some way or another.

We should all make an effort to attend an event. If you can't make the wreath-laying ceremony or the parade, a brief visit to Dorn VA Medical Center to spend a little bit of time with our veterans might work. It would not be too much to ask, and something like that would not go unappreciated by the veterans receiving some company.

At Fort Jackson, we have a year-round open invitation to our veterans to visit and observe how we conduct training today. I am sure many of them appreciate this opportunity, judging by the number of participants who have taken advantage of our tours so far.

Veterans Day provides us another opportunity to show our appreciation for those who have gone before us, providing the call to come together, recognize and reflect on the sacrifice and courage of the military men and women - as well as their families. We must never allow ourselves to lose sight of our mission and our ultimate objectives as a country.

In a few more years, Veterans Day will be a century-old tradition, with its beginnings traced back to the World War I timeframe. Working with the assumption that the world had seen its last global conflict, Congress passed a resolution declaring Nov. 11, 1918, Armistice Day, the original name of Veterans Day. The resolution was passed with the hope that World War I would be the war to end all wars. Unfortunately, a little more than two decades years later, the world found out that was not the case as war broke out in Europe and soon engulfed much of the planet.

Today those of us in uniform continue to answer the call in protecting freedom and keeping our nation secure, often at great personal sacrifice and loss to our families. Armed today with all the lessons learned from the cataclysmic wars and conflicts in which America has championed democracy's principles, we find ourselves at the forefront in the fight against what future historians may look back on as the ultimate threat to freedom - the current conflict in which we have been engaged since 9/11.

Although we have significantly advanced the fight, there is still more to accomplish. It is up to us to guard what our past veterans have gallantly and courageously preserved. We have been entrusted to escort and protect the transfer of the American way of life to our future generations.

World peace - as America's leaders once thought - has yet to materialize, and perhaps never will. But that should not alter our course, nor should it dampen our hopes and resolve, because our mission stays the same.

All veterans know that. We have all taken the oath and understand what that pledge means. We will defend American's freedom and democracy and do whatever it takes to accomplish that mission.

Army Strong and Victory Starts Here!