Promoting peace, prosperity and the American way of life
On Nov. 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared Armistice Day — now Veterans Day — to mark the anniversary of the Allied victory in World War I. For precisely a century now, Americans have commemorated this occasion with ceremonies and parades. It also gives former service members the chance to share their experiences with younger generations.
President Wilson thought the armistice would last and that World War I had been the “war to end all wars.” But just a few decades later, World War II would become the most devastating conflict in history. President Eisenhower changed the name to Veterans Day in 1954 in part to honor those who fought Japan and Germany.
Veterans Day celebrates all who have served in America’s armed forces, not just a single armistice or war. As a veteran, the son of a World War II veteran, and the father of an Air Force officer, I was glad to join Mississippians recently to discuss the significance of Veterans Day.
A debt of gratitude
Earlier this month, many Mississippians cast their ballots in our state’s elections. That right is enshrined in our constitution and protected by our military. No matter the tides of politics, gratitude for this security unites Americans.
Military men and women do not stop helping their communities when they put away their uniforms. Veterans are business owners, nurses, police officers, preachers, school teachers and shipbuilders. In the camouflage of civilian life across our country, they continue to act as leaders and role models.
Americans’ appreciation for our veterans is displayed every day. I am always glad to hear the phrase “thank you for your service” said to our veterans and to see honor flights come to visit war memorials in Washington. These small tokens of thanks go a long way.
During the past three years, Congress has passed 57 pieces of veterans legislation and sent them to President Trump for his signature. The new VA MISSION Act increases veterans’ health-care choices and streamlines community care programs. I am actively working to pass the HAVEN Act, which would protect veterans’ benefits.
Other initiatives come from the state and local levels, including programs at our universities as well as nonprofits like Combat Wounded Veterans of South Mississippi.
Providing for tomorrow’s veterans
Veterans Day is also a reminder of the need to support those currently in uniform. In President Wilson’s day, many Americans hoped disarmament would give us lasting peace. A century later, we have learned that peace comes through strength.
One of the most important roles of an elected official is to provide for the common defense. America has met past challenges because, for 58 years, Democrats and Republicans have passed the National Defense Authorization Act and agreed on funding for our troops. I am working to meet those goals as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Our military is confronting new threats, including from countries like Russia, China, and Iran, making this task more pressing every day. As Congress debates funding, I hope we can again fulfill our most basic constitutional responsibilities to tomorrow’s veterans.
The lessons learned since the first Armistice Day show that the best way to protect the hard-fought gains of the veterans we honor is to support today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.
U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), a native of Pontotoc, is the senior senator from Mississippi and has served as senator since 2007.