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During the U.S. Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln called on Americans in his famous Gettysburg Address to ensure that liberty "shall not perish from the earth." His words have inspired many over the years, including millions in the nation's armed services who fought to preserve not only their nation's freedom, but that of other nations as well.
Today, Veterans Day, America pauses to honor these men and women and the values of duty and sacrifice they represent. Long after they leave uniform, they symbolize what it means to be a citizen of a free nation.
The holiday, observed every year on November 11, originated with the armistice that ended World War I. The conflict, fought in Asia, Africa, scattered islands in the Pacific and the waters off South America as well as on the battlefields of Europe, was seen as "the war to end all wars." Other wars followed, however, and in 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower expanded the holiday to honor all who have served in uniform both in war and peace.
President Barack Obama is continuing this effort with a new program to help veterans leaving the military to find employment with the U.S. government and ease their transition into civilian life. "Honoring our sacred trust with America's veterans means doing all we can to help them find work when they come home so they never feel as if the American Dream they fought to defend is out of reach for them and their families," the president said.
At its core, though, Veterans Day isn't about war. It commemorates no battlefield victory or defeat, it celebrates no advancement of political or territorial ambition. Rather, it's a day of remembrance, echoing similar holidays in Great Britain, Canada, South Africa and other countries that honor military veterans for their service and sacrifice.