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Veterans: Our American Heroes

State Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, says Americans today should remember the sacrifices of veterans and aim to show appreciation to those who have served their country.

This Veterans Day, our nation pauses to honor the courageous men and women of our armed forces and their unwavering commitment to defend our nation’s liberty. As we commemorate America’s greatest heroes, I encourage you to take a moment to recognize the many sacrifices that our military and their families make on a daily basis.

For more than 230 years, generations of American soldiers have worn the uniform of our armed forces and have fought on both domestic and foreign soil. These brave soldiers have crouched in the muddy trenches of Belgium, confronted the enemy from the rocky crags of the Italian Alps, trudged through the jungles of Vietnam, and struggled up the sandy beaches of Normandy. With fire in their eyes and faith in their heart, these everyday Americans were placed in extraordinary circumstances to protect our nation from the bonds of tyranny.

The roots of this national holiday can be traced back to 1918, when World War I ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. An armistice, or truce, was signed declaring that the “war to end all wars” was finally over. The next year, Nov. 11 was declared Armistice Day in memory of all the men and women who served in WWI. Twenty years after WWI, Armistice Day became a federal holiday.

Sadly, history shows us that WWI was not the war to end all wars. Our country endured two more horrific battles, beginning with WWII in 1939 where over 400,000 American soldiers lost their lives defending democracy and freedom. The Korean War followed from 1950 to 1953, resulting in the loss of more American lives. When the war ended, Congress desired to commemorate veterans of all wars, not only those who served in World War I. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming the holiday a national day of remembrance for all wars, and Armistice Day officially became known as Veterans Day.

We can clearly see how the heroes of the past continue to inspire and lead our heroes of today. Each generation of military servicemen and women were united under one common purpose—to promote freedom and democracy around the world while keeping our homeland safe.

Today, our military serves in over 120 nations throughout the world. These soldiers face challenges on a daily basis and as they do, they continually represent the enduring spirit of the American people.

These soldiers do not march to foreign shores armed with notions of glory, but fight valiantly for a single conviction—some things are worth dying for. One of the best examples of this can be found in the Gospels. Jesus said in John 15: 12-13, “this is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

To all our veterans, I have a simple, yet heartfelt message—thank you for your service. Your example inspires others who follow in your footsteps. Thank you for your steadfast service in peace and war, in this nation and throughout the world.

Let us also never forget those veterans’ families who have paid a high price for our freedom. We must always support our military families as they watch loved ones deploy for service in the hopes of their safe return. Soldiers overseas appreciate our thoughts and prayers, and gain comfort from knowing that their families are protected at home.

Now more than ever, it is imperative that we continue to show support to our nation’s military. In the past several months alone, funding for our nation’s military has dipped to an all-time low and additional cuts are expected in January. With continued uncertainty overseas, I think we can all agree that supporting adequate defense spending is essential to protecting our nation against national security threats.

As George Washington once said, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”

Friends, let’s join together this Veterans Day by honoring those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of their fellow countryman. This Veterans Day I challenge you to reach out to a veteran in your community. There are so many ways that you can show your support; attend a Veterans Day parade, pray for our military both past and present, or simply shake a veteran’s hand and say, “thank you for your service.” Even a small act of kindness will mean a lot to our veterans. After all, we are indebted to them for their heroic decision to answer the call of duty.

Veterans, we appreciate you and thank you for your service. May God continue to bless you and the United States of America.

Sen. Bill Heath serves as chairman of the Finance Committee. He represents the 31st Senate District, which consists of Haralson and Polk counties and portions of Bartow and Paulding counties. He may be reached at 404-656-3943 or by email at billheath@billheath.net.

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