One hundred and one years ago on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns fell silent. The Great War that devastated Europe and took millions of lives had come to an end. On this Armistice Day, the United States and our allies commemorated the loss of our soldiers who perished on the poppy fields of Flanders, the cliffs of Gallipoli, and on countless battlefields across the globe. Tragically, it took the even greater global cataclysm of WWII and tens of millions more dead to put an end to the cycle of world war in the last century. In 1954, Armistice Day was officially changed to Veterans Day to honor all who have served.
Last June, I walked Omaha Beach with some of the remaining veterans who landed there. While visiting the Normandy American Cemetery, the humble character of their fallen comrades was revealed in the inscribed words of General Mark Clark: “Here was our only conquest: all we asked…was enough…soil in which to bury our gallant dead.” We did not fight for land or treasure; we fought to defend human dignity and liberty, for our own security and the safety of others.
As we pause to reflect and give thanks this Veterans Day, we are rightly humbled by the remarkable courage and sacrifice of our young and old who served this country. Each has a story that needs to be remembered. Their individual stories of success, survival, and sorrow tether us to a story far greater than ourselves––the American story. The song of our great and enduring nation.
Through the Lost Generation, the Silent Generation, the Greatest Generation, to the dispossessed of Vietnam, to the current generation returning home with fewer dead but more broken bodies, hearts, and minds, we have remaining work to do to ensure that each are remembered and embraced. As the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David Berger, said recently, “Just as we talk about physical fitness, marksmanship, training and education, Marines must also be comfortable discussing life's struggles, mental wellness, and suicide. We must create a community where seeking help and assistance are simply normal, important decisions.”
This Veterans Day, please join me in recognizing and giving thanks to those among us who served our nation. Let us remember their sacrifice at those consecrated places: Belleau Wood, Saint-Mihiel, Guadalcanal, Midway, Normandy, Bastogne, Iwo Jima, Chosin, Hue, Khe Sanh, Fallujah, and Helmand. I will join a parade, as will many Nebraskans, but what is most important is that our obligation not ease once the parades are finished and the flags put away.
In the months ahead, I will invite veterans to record their wartime stories as part of the Veterans History Project. Created by Congress in 2000, this is an important effort by the Library of Congress to collect and preserve first-hand interviews of America's service members. The Veterans History Project has thus far collected the histories of around 90,000 vets nationwide. It is an invaluable resource for all Americans, especially our young, who will hopefully never face the kinds of brutal, scarring conflict faced by their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.
If you would like to know more about the Veterans History Project initiative or know a veteran who would like to participate, please call my Lincoln office at 402-438-1598. You can also find more information about the Veterans History Project at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
To all veterans on this Veterans Day Weekend, I salute you and thank you for your extraordinary service.