On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 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 we call peace.
It is a day for remembrance, gratitude and celebration. Veterans Day is a day when we remember the sacrifices of veterans who have gone before us, thank those veterans still in our midst and encourage each other to live up to the example our veterans provide 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 the words of a quote generally attributed to Winston Churchill, “A nation that does not honor its heroes, soon will 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 more than a million veterans of World War II are still with us, as are about 21 million American Veterans of all the wars and years since then. 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 Illiana Health Care System (VAIHCS) and our 1,500 employees, every day is Veterans Day. Serving more than 33,000 veterans in central Illinois and west central Indiana, we stand ready to provide health care, but more important, to provide caring. 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.