Veterans Day: a time to say thank you

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Perhaps no one understands the purpose of Veterans Day better then a member who has worn our Nation's military uniform to defend the freedoms we are so blessed to have.

In 1918, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns fighting in World War I fell silent. President Woodrow Wilson, called it "the war to end all wars," and ordered that the Armistice be commemorated in succeeding years. After the Korean War, President Dwight Eisenhower renamed the holiday "Veterans Day," to salute all veterans, no matter when or where they served.

Today we use Veterans Day to remember the sacrifices of those who died in our Nation's defense and to honor those who survived the bitter struggles to keep our Nation strong and free.

I know I'm preaching to the choir when I tell you we owe so much to our veterans; a debt we can never truly repay. Their stories are our history, because America rose to greatness on their shoulders. We owe them our very way of life, our freedom to live, work and raise our families in the Nation we love.

Our veterans are often this nation's unsung heroes. Their families and friends may have been the only ones who knew the sacrifices they made to serve our great country. In peacetime, it was easy to forget that these men and women were on duty in lonely outposts around the world. Our veterans missed the births of their children, wedding anniversaries and graduations. They have spent holidays in soggy rice paddies in Vietnam, amid the sands of the Iraqi desert, and in the cold and rugged mountains of Afghanistan. And they did it as you continue today out of a loyalty to our Constitution, our freedoms and the American dream that all people should be allowed to live in freedom.

Many American military members died on foreign soil, defending the cause of freedom around the world. They gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers, wives and mothers. They gave up everything for their country, and for us.

Service isn't just about long hours and sacrifices, it's about our values. Our veterans are the epitome of what it means to be good citizens. They have given us a lifetime of service, and the country has been enriched by their contributions, both in and out of uniform.

Parades, ceremonies and memorials are planned throughout the country over the Veteran's Day weekend. I know many of you will be attending ceremonies here on the Central Coast to show your appreciation. Other Team V members have stepped up to be guest speakers and our Honor Guard members will be presenting colors at two local events. As always, dedicated Airmen selflessly giving your time to your communities call for support.

To all veterans, past and present, I thank you. Thank you for your sacrifices, for your sense of duty, and for your service. Our nation salutes you and I salute you.