Veterans Day marks both freedom's triumph, and the sacrifice necessary to preserve it.
On the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, a truce, or armistice, was signed between the combatants in Europe, ending the conflict we now remember as World War I. At the time our doughboys answered President Woodrow Wilson's call to arms, the fight then raging in Europe was described as 'the war to end all wars.' Three years after the armistice of 1918 was signed, three unknown soldiers who perished during the struggle were ceremoniously buried in Europe, France and Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia. The day of tribute, observed thereafter as Armistice Day, became a national holiday in 1938. By then, of course, Hitler's rise to power in Germany cast a new shadow over Europe.
By 1941, the hope engendered by the Kaiser's defeat was crushed. A second world war, unleashed by Hitler's thundering panzer tank divisions and abetted by Axis allies Italy and Japan, had spread like wildfire, enveloping not only Europe, but North Africa and the Far East. This nation hadn't yet been drawn into the spreading conflict, but few Americans expected to escape it.
President Franklin Roosevelt, speaking at Arlington on that grim Armistice Day 1941, conceded that the collapse of the peace left some veterans of the First World War embittered. ''What did it get you?'' they asked each other.
Roosevelt responded by citing the remarks uttered at that same cemetery not long before by a celebrated hero.
''Sergeant York spoke thus of the cynics and the doubters: 'The thing they forget is that is that liberty and freedom and democracy are so very precious that you do not fight to win them once and stop. Liberty and freedom and democracy are prizes awarded only to those peoples who fight to win then keep fighting eternally to hold them.' ''
York's foresight, and his faith in this nation's determination, was affirmed on the battlefields of Europe, the islands of the Pacific, the beaches and hills of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, the desert overlooking the Persian Gulf, and other tests big and small.
On this Veterans Day 2000, as the holiday is now known, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner salutes all the men and women who've answered and continue to answer York's summons to duty, defending the freedoms we today enjoy.
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