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Veterans Day is a public holiday that is dedicated to honoring those who have served in the United States military. The holiday began as a day to remember the end of World War I and was declared a holiday by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. Originally known as Armistice Day, the holiday became Veterans Day in 1954.

When Woodrow Wilson declared November 11 a holiday, the primary intention was to have a day to reflect on the sacrifices of those who had served in the military during World War I. Germany had signed an armistice with the Allies that signaled the end of the war at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918. Observation of the holiday through parades and meetings was envisioned.

On the occasion of the first observance, Woodrow Wilson stated, "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with lots of pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations."

In the words of Ronald Reagan, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."

The young patriots now returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan and other deployments worldwide are joining the ranks of veterans to whom America owes an immense debt of gratitude. Thank a veteran today for their service and sacrifice. As a veteran myself, I can tell you how much it means.

Thomas W. Hamilton more

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