By Maj. Gen. James M. Milano, Fort Jackson commanding generalNovember 10, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Call it optimism. Call it wishful thinking. Or call it a belief that mankind would come to its senses. When America's lawmakers more than 90 years ago created Veterans Day -- or Armistice Day, as it was known back then -- they thought that the end of World War I would be the end of all wars.
I can understand their thoughts. America had just prevailed in a horrific conflict of global proportions. The world had been taught a good lesson.
The aggressors had paid a heavy price, and another war was the last thing on anyone's mind. Our congressional leaders were no doubt thinking as they passed the resolution declaring the end of World War I that this victory would provide America an opportunity to come together and recognize and reflect on the sacrifice and courage of all who have served.
Unfortunately, an end to all wars was not to be. In fact, the next world war would be worse than the first in terms of destruction and number of lives lost, and subsequent wars would take on new foes and new forms, all of which would undermine the notion that an end to all wars was a reasonable expectation. Nevertheless, the intent of Veterans Day to honor our veterans held then and still holds today tremendous value for our nation's citizenry.
The first Veterans Day, or Armistice Day, was celebrated in 1919. It was declared a national day of remembrance, but the scope of that would change in subsequent years. Veterans Day would no longer be a day set aside to remember the dead from one war, but rather a day in which veterans from all wars would be recognized, as well as those veterans currently serving in times of war and peace. Perhaps the expansion of the holiday is what makes Veterans Day such an important day, not only for military members, but also for every person who pledges his or her allegiance to our great nation and the protection of our way of life.
I am of the opinion that Americans cannot show too much appreciation for our veterans, and that's not just the uniform talking. Our country would not have the many freedoms that it enjoys today had it not been for the courage and sacrifice of our military. It is up to our present day military to safeguard what our past veterans have gallantly and courageously preserved so that we may transfer the American way of life to future generations.
World peace -- as America's leaders once sought -- has yet to materialize, and perhaps never will, but that does not change our course or dampen our hopes and resolve.
As we celebrate Veterans Day 2011, let's remember those who have served and those who continue to serve as we honor every past and present Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman. Today, 25 million veterans are among us, and our nation salutes every one of them.
As always, there are a number of planned Veterans Day observances in the area. Fort Jackson will have a wreath-laying ceremony 9 a.m. this morning at the Andrew Jackson statue by Gate 1.
The City of Columbia will host a Veterans Day parade tomorrow at 11 a.m., and there are veterans' organizations throughout our area that will be celebrating the holiday in some way or another. We should all plan on attending an event. Tomorrow is much more than a day off -- it is a testament to servitude and sacrifice by the best America has to offer. Enjoy the holiday, and do something for a veteran!
Victory Starts Here.