As we all owe a debt of gratitude to our nation’s veterans, those same veterans should be thankful for the efforts of Raymond Weeks.
A World War II veteran, Weeks organized “National Veterans Day” on Nov. 11 — then the designated date for Armistice Day — in 1947 in Birmingham, Ala. Weeks’ effort to honor all veterans, not just those from World War I, was successful and in 1954, President Eisenhower signed a proclamation designating this day each year as Veterans Day.
Our nation’s military conflicts have become more politicized in recent decades, and that combined with funding shortfalls and cutbacks in programs for veterans have left our fighting men and women in the middle of partisan tugs of war. A Washington Post investigation earlier this year exposed the dreadful conditions and treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where many injured soldiers and Marines are cared for after returning from Iraq or Afghanistan. President Bush appointed a commission, led by former Sen. Bob Dole and Donna Shalala, Health and Human Services secretary during the Clinton administration, to investigate the problems at Walter Reed and recommend solutions. The panel offered its recommendations in July, but typical bureaucratic wrangling has slowed progress to a crawl.
Still, our nation wonders how treatment of those who protect us could have fallen so far, so fast.
The Veterans Day Proclamation signed Oct. 31 by President Bush reads, in part: “Our veterans held fast against determined and ruthless enemies and helped save the world from tyranny and terror. They ensured that America remained what our founders meant her to be: a light to the nations, spreading the good news of human freedom to the darkest corners of the earth.”
We need to ensure that those who carry that light are cared for properly when their service is complete.
Today we take time to praise our military men and women — all of them, from all of our nation’s conflicts, just as Raymond Weeks intended. Our veterans have honored us all by answering the call to duty.