Veterans Day – Nov. 11, 2010

November 10, 2010

It is a privilege to be with the citizens of our community to honor our veterans on November 11, 2010. Today we remember that our freedom did not come easily. On the battlefields of the globe, America’s finest men and women have shed their blood to protect our way of life.

Veterans Day was first celebrated in 1926 to commemorate the end of World War I in 1918. The President issued a proclamation calling upon the officials to “display the flag of the United States on all government buildings every November 11th, inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.” The resolution passed by Congress instructed that “the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”

Although the 11th day of the 11th month – November 1918 – marked the cessation of what was considered “the most destructive, bloody, and far reaching wars in human history,” more and even bloodier wars were to follow.

By honoring veterans, we not only remember their valor, but also reflect on why they fought. Usually, when we speak about Veterans Day, our country is at peace. A peace maintained and sustained by our military men and women who voluntarily signed their names on a line to defend this country, with their lives if necessary, from all threats foreign and domestic. They also fought to preserve the values of America.

We owe a debt of gratitude to our living veterans and to those who served before them, including the many who sacrificed their lives or their health so that we can continue to live free and secure. They fought when our country asked them to take up arms. They went where they were sent. They did what they had to do. And, prayed they would survive and return home to family and friends.

Some did not survive, for a solider deliberately places himself, or herself, in harm’s way for the sake of country. Someone once said that “A veteran is “someone who wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America ‘ for an amount of ‘up to and including their life.” This is true devotion to one’s fellow human being.

The real implication of this statement is neither fully understood nor recognized by many. But just a few short years ago, it was brought home to us at the most profoundly heartbreaking Hillside service for a beloved son of Wilton, 19-year-old Wilton High School soccer player and graduate, Nick Madaras. We were all overcome by the ultimate sacrifice made by this fine and giving young soldier.

As we sought to relieve some of the heartache of his family, I reflected on my own inner strength as a mother. Would we be able to bear letting our own sons or daughters go to war or pay the ultimate price? We would have to dig deep to find the courage. For, if we believe in this country, we would have to find a way to bear it somehow. We have a responsibility to those who will inherit this place after we are gone. We owe it to Nick and to so many others who have given us the ability to enjoy the freedoms that we all too often take for granted.

We should also acknowledge the many soldiers who at this very moment are putting their lives on the line for us even though they have never met us or know who we are. They do this, not for recognition or reward – but simply because they love America – and they love those who share the burden with them.

It is particularly fitting to have so many young people in our schools pay tribute to our veterans on November 11th. Veterans: When you attend these ceremonies or parades, you serve as a constant reminder for our children and future generations of children who strive to grow up to be just as strong and true to a country that gives us the freedom to pursue our own destiny without fear or coercion.

Let us all thank our veterans today and everyday. They are role models and they are making a difference in communities like ours and others around the nation. God bless you and our great country, land of the brave and home of the free.