On Veterans Day 1982, then-President Ronald Reagan draped the Presidential Medal of Freedom around the neck of Raymond Weeks, an American from Birmingham, Alabama. Thirty-five years before, Weeks, a Navy veteran of World War II, led the first-ever “National Veterans Day” Celebration. Of course, the United States has commemorated our veterans ever since the first Armistice Day in 1919, but Weeks wanted to broaden that day to honor all veterans, not just those killed in battle. He later led the charge for the federal government to institute that distinction for Armistice Day. Thanks to Weeks’ advocacy, in 1954 then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill transforming Armistice Day into Veterans Day.
Weeks’ story inspires me and our team at the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation. Like Weeks, I am motivated to honor all who I was humbled to serve with in an era-defining conflict. Just as Weeks was only one man, the Foundation isn’t a large organization. And we know that we should pay tribute to all veterans who served in this multi-generational conflict.
To this day, the Global War on Terrorism continues with no end in sight. This Veterans Day, I hope you and your familia contemplate with gratitude the service of all who have worn the uniform in this conflict, and all others.
Please thank a veteran personally, and reflect on the time they’ve spent away from loved ones and the freedoms for which they have sacrificed. All veterans deserve recognition. We as a nation reverently honor all those heroes who made life-giving sacrifices every Memorial Day.
I am proud of the progress we have made this year in seeing the Global War on Terrorism Memorial come to fruition on the National Mall. It’s been nearly a year since Congress granted us authorization to construct a Memorial on the Mall – and we have been hard at work with the National Park Service and other federal partners to determine the best spot for Americans to come together and unite in honoring multiple generations of warfighters who have served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and all other theaters of the ongoing Global War on Terrorism. We’ve made sturdy progress in fundraising, and added visionary leaders to the team.
President John F. Kennedy once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” With that in mind, our work at the Foundation is all the more urgent. It is our privilege to lead the planning, funding, and building of a Global War on Terrorism Memorial – and to be in the trenches with our supporters who share our zeal. Together, we will give our protectors their due.