By Congressman Steve King (R/IA)
On a recent flight from Omaha to Washington, D.C., something happened that I want to share with you as the nation commemorates Veterans Day.
A young man boarded the flight and took his seat. He was about 25 years old, and he was dressed in the combat fatigues issued to him by the United States Army.
Traveling alone, he probably thought he would spend the long flight in relative anonymity. Instead he soon found himself to be the center of attention.
Why? Because as passengers boarded the aircraft and walked past him, many did something that too many of us fail to do when the opportunity presents itself. Several passengers stopped, shook the soldier’s hand, looked him squarely in the eye, and thanked him for his service.
Equally impressive was the soldier’s response. He humbly asked that people who had taken a moment to personally thank him also continue to think of his fellow service members who were not there to receive accolades.
Each November 11, our country celebrates a very special holiday. We celebrate Veterans Day, a day in which the people express our gratitude to veterans for their service to our nation.
This hasn’t always been the case. Early in the holiday’s history, November 11 was known as “Armistice Day” and was dedicated solely to those American heroes who had answered their nation’s call during World War I.
But President Dwight D. Eisenhower, himself the former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in World War II, understood that the sacrifices made by America’s military personnel could not and would not be limited to a single bloody chapter in the nation’s history. He knew what all military people know: those who oppose the freedoms and liberties represented by the United States of America would never confine their threat to a single period of time. America would always have a need to thank those brave men and women who place their very lives on the line in order to rally to her defense.
Eisenhower’s insight has proven itself to be a timeless truth. Since October 8, 1954, when President Eisenhower issued the first official “Veterans Day” proclamation, the United States has called upon its heroes time and time again. In places as diverse as the jungles of Vietnam, the skies over Bosnia, the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation’s veterans have continually earned the thanks and the admiration of a grateful nation.
So on this November 11, while Americans are once again bravely serving in a hostile foreign land, I ask that each American take a moment to do what President Eisenhower asked of us in the first “Veterans Day” proclamation. President Eisenhower asked that:
“On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.”
I also ask that Americans do what the young soldier I spoke of earlier requested: please remember that while every veteran has given something, some veterans gave all.
To the veterans of the United States Armed Forces, past and present, I offer you my sincerest salute.
Congressman Steve King represents Iowa’s Fifth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.
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