Honoring our veterans means caring for them
OBSERVANCE of this Veterans Day is a wonderful tradition that allows all Americans to reflect upon the sacrifices made by our veterans in protecting our freedoms and liberties. This Veterans Day is especially poignant during this time of conflict.
Our current battles abroad are a constant reminder of the ordeals our soldiers of this war and past wars endured on behalf of this great nation. I commend the many soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines on active duty, and the National Guard and the Reserves and their families for their service to our country. Our support of our service members must be steadfast and strong.
Veterans Day has a long and important history. In 1911 -- at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month -- an armistice was signed between the Allied nations and Germany, effectively ending World War I, then hoped to be "the war to end all wars." In November of 1919, President Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. This great day was initially celebrated in honor of those veterans who fought in World War I.
Benito Martinez School kindergartner Carla Egan peeked over a sign made to show her appreciation for U.S. veterans during a Veterans Day ceremony yesterday in El Paso, Texas.
It was not until 1954 that Congress, at the urging of veterans service organizations, renamed Armistice Day as Veterans Day to extend the commemoration to all those who have so honorably served this nation.
As we pause today to commemorate those who served on behalf of this grateful nation, we must make certain that this day has meaning and is not merely set aside for fanfare and speeches. Indeed, we must make certain that our veterans have our commitment and support every day, and not just on Veterans Day.
Too often our veterans' priorities are not our own. As we saw earlier this year, the Veterans Administration had a tremendous funding shortfall. It took some too long to acknowledge what so many of us had known for some time -- that VA health care was not being funded at an adequate level, a level commensurate with the sacrifice that our veterans made on the beaches of Normandy, the harbors of Hawaii, the mountains of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam and the deserts of the Middle East.
I am pleased that the VA has announced it is suspending its planned review of 72,000 post-traumatic stress disorder claims. This is surely great news for all veterans because many times VA compensation is the sole source of income for a veteran and his family.
We must put into practice daily the sentiment that Abraham Lincoln expressed when he said during his second inaugural address that we should "care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and for his orphan."
Our 25 million living veterans are the backbone of this nation. Today, I want to express my gratitude to all veterans of our Armed Forces and thank them for their service.
Sen. Daniel K. Akaka is the ranking member on the Veterans' Affairs Committee and the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management.