---- — 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.
VAIHCS has a long history of serving veterans, going all the way back to 1898 when we became the eighth site for a National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. From that time, we have expanded and now operate five outpatient clinics in Decatur, Mattoon, Peoria and Springfield, Illinois and West Lafayette, Ind., in addition to our medical center in Danville. We also have a national cemetery on our Danville campus where our heroes come to their final resting place.
I have the good fortune to work for a great organization — the Department of Veterans Affairs. I cannot think of a more noble cause for a career than by serving and honoring our past and current Veterans as well as our current returning heroes who have made this country what it is today.
I hope that, on this Veterans Day, people will express their gratitude to those who have served and those who still serve. By our advocacy on behalf of veterans in public and in private, we acknowledge our continuing dependence on our 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 Lincoln’s promise. It is our sacred duty.
Lastly, let us not forget that today — Nov. 10 — is the 238th birthday of the United States Marine Corps.
Happy Veterans Day to all our veterans!
Russell E. Lloyd is acting director of the VA Illiana Health Care System in Danville.