Q: What is the history behind Veterans Day
A: In 1918, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, an armistice was reached between the Allied nations and Germany marking the end of fighting in World War I. Woodrow Wilson declared November 11, 1919, the first commemoration of Armistice Day, honoring both those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and those who survived fighting for our freedom. Subsequently, legislatures from 27 states adopted their own versions of Armistice Day, and in 1926, Congress passed a resolution that made Armistice Day a federal holiday to recognize the efforts of our soldiers in uniform and the global peace that they helped to achieve. Unfortunately, "the war to end all wars" did not create a permanent peace. After the United States engaged in both World War II and the Korean Conflict, Congress decided that Armistice Day should honor veterans of all wars rather than just those in World War I. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill that would rename Armistice Day to Veterans Day. Since then, we have recognized the sacrifice of all veterans with a federal holiday each November.
Q: What does Veterans Day mean to you
A: Veterans who defend the freedoms of our country come to define their generation. I had a chance to witness this first-hand in September when I had my annual meeting with World War II veterans. Each year, a Cedar Falls business generously brings a group of World War II veterans from Iowa to Washington to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice as well as commemorate the extraordinary dedication of every American to victory by visiting the World War II Memorial on the National Mall. This year, veterans from Waterloo, Waverly, Janesville and Cedar Falls came out to pay their respects. In October, I had the honor of meeting Henry Langrehr, a World War II veteran from Clinton. Henry parachuted into the Battle of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. In recognition of his valor, the French government bestowed Henry Langrehr with its highest honor, naming him a Knight of the Legion of Honor. French President Nicolas Sarkozy will present Henry Langrehr and six other World War II veterans with the French Medal of Honor as a sign of gratitude for their heroic contributions. These soldiers epitomize "the greatest generation." They represent the shared sense of brotherhood between soldiers and show what it means to put "country before self." I was honored to meet these patriots and am proud that we have men and women of the same character in our military today. From the winter encampment at Valley Forge to the battlefields of today's War on Terrorism, our soldiers are fighting for something worth fighting for: liberty. The very least our nation can do is honor their sacrifice this Veterans Day.