On November 11, we will celebrate Veterans Day and honor those who have served our nation. This is a day set aside to share our deep appreciation with all those, from the Battle of Yorktown to the War on Terror, who have fought to keep us safe and to protect the values we hold dear.
There is really something remarkable about serving our country. It means that an individual is willing to give up their own life so that others may have the opportunity to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Veterans Day began in 1919 when President Woodrow Wilson created Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I. The name was officially changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was a veteran himself. Veterans Day was briefly moved from November 11th to October in the seventies, but Congress passed a law in 1975 officially setting Veterans Day as November 11th.
While Memorial Day is specifically for those who lost their lives while serving our country, Veterans Day is intended to honor all of our nation’s veterans, past and present.
I am sure each of you has at least one veteran in your life. It may be a parent who served in Vietnam or a child currently serving in the Middle East. For some, it may be a co-worker, grandparent, or classmates. One thing they are for sure is a hero.
On Veterans Day, I am always reminded of my brother, Dale. Dale had a lengthy career in the Alabama National Guard, where he rose to rank of Command Sergeant Major. During his military career, Dale served in the Airborne Rangers and Special Forces (20th Special Forces Group). Many times his missions were secret and even our family could not know all the details.
Through his service, Dale earned many honors including the Bronze Star (two awards), the Meritorious Service Medal (five awards), the Army Commendation Medal (three awards), and the Global War on Terrorism Expedition Medal.
Dale loved the camaraderie of the military, and he treasured so many friendship that he made through his service. Sadly, Dale passed away back in 2013 after a lengthy illness.
I miss Dale every day, but I am always blown away by the wide range of people from all over who come up and tell me their stories about Dale. No stories are more powerful than those from people who served alongside Dale over the years. It is that fellowship that makes military service so special.
Earlier this year, Secretary of Defense James Mattis was asked in a television interview what keeps him up at night. Secretary Mattis did not hesitate before answering, “Nothing. I keep other people awake at night.”
That confidence is not derived from any special aircraft or any great piece of military equipment. Those items are important, but they are meaningless without a highly capable and trained military; without individuals willing to put country before self.
That confidence is a testament to the men and women who make up the greatest fighting force in the world: the United States military. Today’s sailors, soldiers, airmen, and Marines are carrying on the legacy of the countless others who came before them.
So, this Veterans Day, may we remember the courage, sacrifice, dedication, and unselfish nature of all those who have served our country. May we never allow their service and sacrifice to be in vein, and may we always honor the United States of America.
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Bradley Byrne is a member of U.S. Congress representing Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.