November 11th in the United States of America has been what we know as Veteran’s Day since 1963. Originally called Armistice Day, it was formally changed to Veteran’s Day in 1954. We celebrate Veteran’s day on November 11th because on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the armistice with Germany went into effect ending World War One. Many Americans go out of their way on this day to to thank veterans for their service to our nation (something we are all guilty – myself included – of not doing nearly enough on a regular basis). Coincidentally, into telling you why its celebrated on November 11th, you might have noticed that today is the 100th year since the end of the war that was originally known as the war to end all wars.
Although I think war is a terrible thing, we must face the facts that it has to be used as a last resort to defend what we believe in, to protect American citizens, and to keep tyranny, terrorism, and extremist violence from spreading to further parts of the world. As a historian, I have come to love Veteran’s day because it has allowed me to learn about just a few of the stories of the brave men and women and what they have done serving and protecting the United States of America. Just Google it. I am not going to tell you my favorites – I want you to do your research and come up with your own. IN addition, I have family members (including both Grandfathers) who have proudly served and countless friends who have and who still do.
Two of my personal heroes throughout history have been Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Aside from sharing a friendship with one another they led two of the greatest nations on earth through WW2 and one of the darkest chapters of human history. They are revered in both countries for this as well as their abilities in the oration department. Both men were excellent public speakers. Obama once said he watched FDR’s war speeches before he gave big speeches while he was on the campaign trail. While thinking about what I wanted to write on this Veteran’s day, excerpts from each of their speeches came to mind.
Churchill gave his “We Shall Fight…” speech before the House of Commons on June 4, 1940. He had just taken over as Prime Minister and France was quickly losing in their fight to maintain control of their country with the Nazis. Following the sea rescue of the majority of British Forces from Dunkirk as part of Operation Dynamo the British morale effort was quickly deteriorating when the public heard of the British retreat. They also left behind a majority of their tanks and artillery weapons. Churchill had to describe a great military disaster, and warn of a possible invasion attempt by the Nazis, without casting doubt on eventual victory. To do that Churchill said the following:
Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen into the grip of the Gestapo and the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
It is considered to be the greatest oratorical moment of Churchill’s career. It was so rousing and moving the many members of the liberal party – who were not fans of Churchill – could be seen openly weeping at its conclusion. Sadly, there is no recording of Churchill giving this speech, but Gary Oldman gives the most magnificent performance of his career in The Darkest Hour if you are interested. The 4 minutes it takes for the speech only will give you chills.
The speech that came to mind for Roosevelt was similar in terms of the situation in which the speaker gave it. On December 8, 1941 FDR spoke before a special join session of congress where he asked them to declare war on the Empire of Japan. Roosevelt ends the speech by asking Congress to declare war, but the final statement before the request is what has always stuck out to me. In perhaps one of the most important speeches of his career Roosevelt was able to call Japan cowardly and assert the eventual victory of the United States by saying:
Always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.
What sticks out to me in both of these speeches is the confidence. Both leaders were certain of eventual victory even though they had just been through humbling defeats for their respective nations. The more I think about it, however, the more I have come to realize why they were able to do this. When it comes to the military, we as citizens of this nation, and Churchill and Roosevelt, as leaders of nations trust our militaries. We trust our military to keep us safe. To defend America’s interests. To do what is right. I do not know this for certain, but I believe those who have served and those who still serve do so with pride and trust. They trust that we will honor and remember their sacrifice of time and service by taking care of them when they get home. They trust we won’t forget their sacrifices by making sure they have the tools and the resources necessary to live a good life long after their military careers are over. Right now, we have broken that trust. We are failing to live up to the deal, even though our veterans have not yet let us down once.
To Prove to you that we are failing to live up to our end of this trust agreement, consider the following facts:
- Veterans under the age of 50 are twice as likely to commit suicide has their civilian counterparts.
- 30% of all veterans have reported having suicidal thought.
- Unemployment rates are often double the national average for our veterans.
- 40% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans can name at least one person they served with who has committed suicide. 24% can name at least 2.
- 2 out of ever 6 men who are homeless served in our nation’s military for at least one year.
- Veterans are 7 times more likely to suffer from substance abuse issues.
- The repeated failure of the Veterans Administration to get these Veterans the help they need.
If the above examples are enough to serve as examples of our end of the broken trust I do not know what to tell you. I am not placing blame on any one government, party, or person. We are all guilty of taking this important agreement for granted. Our Veterans have protected and have served. Now it is our term. We must serve and protect them. And there is no better day to start. In an effort to right our wrong and to help us live up to that agreement with our veterans that is important for our nation’s survival I spent a few minutes before I wrote this post and I emailed my elected officials, both at the state and national level. I plan on calling the national officials offices on Monday as well. As a way of thanking our veterans, I humbly suggest you take the time to do this same small thing today. To make it a little bit easier for those of you who live in South Carolina, at the bottom of this post, I have attached links to where you can write our representatives as well as the phone numbers for their offices. To those of you who have not served in our nation’s military, I leave you with the words of FDR’s cousin to think about:
To those of you who have served and for those who continue to serve, I sincerely thank you for what you have done for me and this nation. I thank you for the sacrifices that you made, as well as the sacrifices that your family and friends had to make as well. The debt we as a nation owe you, can never fully be repaid. Please know you and your safety are continually in my thoughts and prayers. I am and continue to be in awe of your courage, dedication, strength, and bravery. You are the best that America has to give. You honor the ideals of what America stands for daily, and so on this Veteran’s Day, even though it is not nearly enough, I give you my undying thanks and prayers for your continued protection.
With Gratitude and Thanks,
Senator Lindsay Graham
- Greenville Offices
- Washington D.C. Offices:
- 290 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Tim Scott
- Greenville Offices: (864) 233-5366
- Washington D.C. Offices: (202) 224-6121
- 717 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Representative Trey Gowdy
- Greenville Offices: Phone: (864) 241-0175
- Washington D.C. Offices: (202) 225-6030
Don’t live in SC, but still want to contact your representatives? Click here to find out who they are and how to reach them.