Veterans Day 2010; A time of remembrance

For most Americans, the risks of war will be brought home more acutely this Veterans Day as ceremonies across the country honor all who have risked or lost their lives, or sacrificed in other ways for their country.

Veterans Day is an annual observance that honors those who have served their country in uniform, either in times of war or peace.

But as we have said before, the greatest honor and deepest regret is, of course, meant for those who have served in combat. And no one doubts that those who paid the ultimate price are worthy of the highest honors.

Originally, Veterans Day was observed as Armistice Day and marked the end of World War I.

At 11 seconds and 11 minutes past 11 o'clock on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, armistice between the hostile nations signaled the end of World War I. The Armistice actually was signed six hours earlier, at 5 a.m., but did not go into effect until the agreed time.

According to the official U.S. government site on Veterans Day, many confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

"Both holidays were established to recognize and honor the men and women who have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Forces," according to the site.

However, "Memorial Day, which is observed on the last Monday in May, was originally set aside as a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.

"While those who died are also remembered on Veterans Day ... (it) is intended to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military -- in wartime or peacetime.

"In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served -- not only those who died -- have sacrificed and done their duty."

In 1954, President Eisenhower signed a proclamation changing the name of the holiday to Veterans Day.

"On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain," Eisenhower wrote.

It's fitting to honor veterans on a day that's linked to an armistice ending one of the world's bloodiest conflicts. Americans go to war not only to defend ideals but also to secure lasting peace and security.

It is interesting to note that almost a third of the Veterans Days since 1918 have seen the United States in a "hot" war. Factor in the Cold War -- where the risks were enormous even if fewer shots were fired -- and almost two-thirds of our Veterans Days have been observed in times of peril.

It's a sad outcome for a day originally meant to mark the end of "the war to end all wars."

This Veterans Day will see, perhaps, some units rotating home from combat roles or peace-building missions.

We join with all who hope for no more combat, no more deaths, no more maimed young people.

Unfortunately, hoping or praying is all we can do.

One more thing: We can welcome home the ones who return safely, and cherish forever the memories of those who do not.