A few years ago, one of the last survivors of World War I was asked how he would like to be remembered. The veteran, who died in 2009 in Great Britain, remained humble throughout his life. His reply was simply: “I want to be forgotten, remember the others.”
Those sound like the words of a true soldier — always putting others before himself, always sacrificing so we don’t have to. Don’t worry about me, he says, but remember the others.
That is the reason we must pay tribute on Friday to the 42 million men and women who have worn this country’s uniform over the last two-plus centuries. We must remember them and the sacrifices they have made. Without them, our way of life would not be possible. The opportunities we take for granted, the rights that we expect each and every day, the security we have come to expect – these were all paid for by those 42 million men and women. They came forward to serve so we would not have to. They are the proof that freedom is never free.
The first Veterans Day celebration was held in 1919 on the one-year anniversary of the end of World War I. Veterans Day, as we know it, became official in 1954. It is a day that unites us, and it is a day that offers us a chance to give something back to those who served.
It also gives us another opportunity to learn more than just the dates and places of various battles and wars. In honoring our veterans, it is very important that we do not remove their humanity from history. We need to hear their stories, so that we have a better understanding and a deeper appreciation of what they did. We do not ever need to take for granted the men and women serving in our military or our veterans.
Kentuckians are well aware of these things, because we have long had such a strong military presence with Fort Campbell, Fort Knox, and the 345,000 veterans who live here.
I am proud that the state has worked hard over the years to help those who have served or are serving. Our challenge is to build on these gains and do whatever else we can to ease the burdens our veterans and their families may face because of their service.
I am very proud of our veterans – all of our veterans, including my own father, Ray Jones, a USMC vet who fought in Vietnam. When our veterans were called upon, they stepped forward and made a difference. They put this country’s needs ahead of their own. We all pray for a day when everyone can enjoy true peace, but until that day comes, it is good to know that there are courageous men and women who continue to serve on the front line to protect our freedoms.
The simple truth is that our way of life would not be possible without our men and women in uniform. They were and they are the foundation on which everything else rests. We can never fully repay them, but fortunately, they only ask of us one thing: To never forget.
I hope that each of us will take the time this week to show our appreciation to a veteran. A simple “thank you” and a handshake will go a long way in letting them know how much their service means.
Calvin Coolidge once said, “A nation that forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.”
Americans must never forget its veterans. Let us show the world that in America our brave defenders will never be forgotten.
Happy Veterans Day and God bless America.
Senator Ray Jones represents Johnson, Martin and Pike counties.