Legislative Update - November 11, 2020 - Veterans Day
Today, our nation will pause as it has for more than a century to pay tribute to those brave men and women who serve or have served in our Armed Forces.
Outside of New Year’s Eve, Veterans Day is the only annual holiday where the clock plays such an important role. The time is symbolic because it commemorates the end of fighting during World War I, a moment that arrived on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
Exactly a year later, many celebrated what was first known as “Armistice Day.” In his proclamation, President Woodrow Wilson said that November 11th should “be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory … .”
The hope then was that World War I would live up to its informal nickname: “The war to end all wars.” That, of course, did not happen, and after World War II and the Korean War, Congress and President Dwight Eisenhower rightly decided in 1954 that the scope of “Armistice Day” should be widened to honor everyone who wore our nation’s uniform.
Well over 42 million men and women have done just that since the start of the Revolutionary War, giving their time, talents and even life or limb on our behalf. More than 17 million of them are still with us today, including nearly 300,000 here in the commonwealth.
Kentucky has always been at the forefront when it comes to military service. We had more casualties than every other state combined during the War of 1812, for example, and in the Civil War, we had more than 150,000 serve in the Union and Confederate armies, which was nearly 13 percent of our total population at the time.
There were 84,000 Kentuckians who took part in World War I, and more than three-and-a-half times as many fought in World War II. Tens of thousands of others traveled to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or served here at home or at our bases around the world.
Individually, it was a Kentuckian who was one of the first American casualties in World War I and another who was the United States’ second-to-last survivor of that war. A Kentuckian was among the six Marines who raised the flag at Iwo Jima, site of the most famous photo from World War II. Going back to the early 1800s, a Kentuckian was also the first to plant the U.S. flag on foreign soil during a time of war. That moment is best remembered in the second half of the opening line of the Marine’s Hymn: “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.”
We were solemnly reminded of the high cost of our freedom last month, when federal officials announced that they had identified the remains of six men who had been killed in the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack. One of those was Navy Fireman 2nd Class Martin D. Young, a Hancock County native and just 21 years old. He was among 429 men on the USS Oklahoma to be killed, and his funeral is planned for May 15, 2021.
Over the years, the General Assembly has worked to improve services for and recognition of our veterans. That includes making Veterans Day a state holiday; awarding honorary high school diplomas to those who enlisted before they graduated; and establishing an array of veterans-only nursing homes and state-run cemeteries.
COVID-19 may be limiting the number of parades and gatherings we normally would see this week, but that doesn’t change the gratitude we always will have for our veterans and those still serving.
If you are among that elite group, I want to thank you for stepping up when our country needed you. We can never fully repay you, but always know that your actions will never be taken for granted or forgotten. The contributions you and so many others made are the foundation that supports both our country and freedom around the world.
56th District Representative
Kentucky House of Representatives
P.O. Box 1002
Versailles, KY 40383