In the stillness of the morning, in a private railcar in the forest of Compiègne ninety-four years ago today, peace came to war-torn Europe. A ravaged continent breathed a collective sigh of relief as the guns of August fell silent at the conclusion of the “war to end all wars.”
It was not to be. Two decades later, Europe was again engulfed in war, and for the second time, America was drawn into a major international conflict. The “Greatest Generation” would return to foreign fields to secure the blessings of liberty for another generation.
And it would not be the last time. The brave men and women of our armed forces have served valiantly in Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, fighting for a cause larger than self, and today is the day we remember them—when we say a word of thanks for all those who serve and have served.
The brave men and women of our armed forces, both in peacetime and in war, have kept the faith, and on Veterans Day above other days, they deserve our deepest expressions of gratitude. Everyone who wears the uniform knows that, at any time, they may be dispatched to trouble spots around the world, to stand in the breach and place their lives on the line. We honor them for that commitment.
They form a part of a long and storied history of valorous service. Yesterday marked the 237th anniversary of the day that a Quaker and a tavern manager in Philadelphia formed the first two battalions of the Continental Marines. The Continental Army, formed some five months earlier, had already gone into action during the Siege of Boston, and in October of 1775, a fledgling Navy commenced operations with three armed schooners patrolling the Massachusetts Bay.
Today, there are over 22 million veterans living in the United States, and 822,000 of them call Virginia their home. They deserve our undying gratitude – and our firm commitment to the preservation of the cause of liberty for which they put their lives on the line.
This day is irrevocably linked with the moving poem “In Flanders’ Field,” which concludes with a charge to the generations to follow:
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch—be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders’ fields.
To all those who have held high the torch of liberty, and to all those who will keep faith with them in years to come, we salute you, we honor you, and we thank you.
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