On Veterans Day (November 11th), the Nation pauses to honor all of the men and women, past and present who have fought its wars and stood watch around the world through the restless respites from war that we call peace. It is a day for remembrance, gratitude and exhortation. Veterans Day is a day, we remember the sacrifices of Veterans who have gone before us, thank those Veterans still in our midst and exhort each other and our young to live up to their example of selfless service for the common good.
We celebrate Veterans Day to remind ourselves of truths we have heard many times before such as “freedom isn’t free” and that, in words sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill, "A nation that does not honor its heroes will soon have no heroes to honor."
Veterans Day can trace its roots back 95 years, to 1918, when the guns fell silent across the battlefields of Europe. Nearly 5 million Americans served in “the World War,” as it was known then. More than 53,000 of them did not return.
World War I Veterans are all gone now. But over a million Veterans of World War II are still with us, as are about 21 million Veterans of all the wars and years since. That’s 22 million witnesses to both the harsh truth that wars still trouble the earth and the proud fact that courageous Americans of every generation still rise up and step forward to fight for freedom when called upon.
For the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System (VAAAHS) and our 2,300 employees, every day is Veterans Day. Serving nearly 62,000 Veterans in Michigan and Northwest Ohio, we stand ready to provide healthcare, but more importantly, provide compassion. We have a single mission: to keep the promise of Abraham Lincoln to care for those “who shall have borne the battle” and for those they leave behind.
I have had the good fortune to work for a great organization – the Department of Veterans Affairs – for thirty-three years. Being a Veteran myself, I cannot think of a more rewarding career than by serving and honoring my fellow brother and sister-in-arms every day I go into the office.
I hope this Veterans Day people will express their gratitude to those who have served and those who still serve and by our advocacy on behalf of Veterans in public and private, we acknowledge our continuing dependence on men and women in uniform to protect and defend this Nation. We must do all we can to ensure the Nation’s continuing commitment to keeping Lincoln’s promise. It is our sacred duty.
Lastly let us not forget the day before Veterans Day – November 10th. We say happy birthday to the U.S. Marine Corps who celebrate their 238th birthday.
Happy Veterans Day to all our Veterans!!!
Robert P. McDivitt
VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System