Each year on November 11th, Americans gather to honor those who have fought for our country. In quiet tributes and grand parades, on courthouse lawns and at war memorials, organizations such as the American Legion, the VFW, AMVETS, DAV, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the Vietnam Veterans of America celebrate Veterans Day.
Millions of American men and women have served in the United States Armed Forces. Veterans Day is one opportunity to remember veterans as protectors of all that is good with America. Called from diverse backgrounds to serve our country, veterans are united by their common duty and uncommon courage.
For those who served, Veterans Day is a time to reflect on their own service, and to acknowledge their connection to fellow veterans. On November 11th, I often think of the friends and heroes my brother and I fought alongside in Vietnam in 1968 and my father's World War II buddies.
Veterans Day is equally important for non-veterans. Because, the more we understand about war, duty, and sacrifice, the more ardently we will always pursue peace.
Last week, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Visitors Center bill was approved by Congress. I introduced the bill along with my fellow Vietnam combat veterans in the Senate, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and John Kerry (D-MA), which authorizes the construction of an Education Center near the site of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. By collecting historic documents, artifacts, and the testimony of Vietnam veterans, the Visitors Center will provide visitors with a better understanding of the Vietnam War and of the Memorial. It will also underscore the meaning of the Wall, not just as an acknowledgment of a war, or a date in history, but as a living memorial with lessons to offer.
The Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress also contributes to our collective understanding of war. The History Project is dedicated to preserving the experiences of America's veterans by recording the oral histories of every living veteran. The interviews are archived and will become an permanent record of the courage and sacrifices of thousands of veterans.
This year, with U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, the importance of celebrating Veterans Day is close at hand. America's newest veterans are a reminder of real human struggle in war and that, in attempting to understand the magnitude of war, we must never overlook the individual sacrifices in war. From the oldest veterans to the young men and women currently serving our nation - America's future veterans - each deserves our appreciation and our respect on this Veterans Day.