This month marks the 90th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War.
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This month marks the 90th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War. On the morning of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year, a truce was signed between the Allied Powers and Germany that ended the fighting on the Western Front in Europe. More than 4.7 million Americans served in World War I, the most horrific conflict in all of human history at that time. It was a war that was fought “to end all wars.” More than 200,000 soldiers were wounded, and 116,516 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice. November 11th has since become a day to honor and remember the men and women who have served in our armed forces in every war, and in peace time.

The first Armistice Day was declared by President Woodrow Wilson on November 11, 1919, as a day of solemn reflection and commemoration of “the heroism of those who died in the country’s service.” Two years later, the body of an unknown soldier from World War I was brought to Washington, DC to lie in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, and was buried on Armistice Day in Arlington National Cemetery. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which also contains the remains of unknown heroes from subsequent wars, bears the inscription: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

In 1938, with Europe on the threshold of a second world war, Congress recognized Armistice Day as a legal holiday. In addition to honoring the veterans of World War I, the 11th of November was designated as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.” On June 1, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower—who served in the Army during the First World War and was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during the Second World War—signed legislation declaring November 11th as Veterans Day, in recognition of the contributions of all who have served and defended our nation. Later that year, President Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day proclamation, in which he stated: “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 re-consecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.”

The United States owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to our military veterans who have defended our country through their service in the armed forces. As a member of both the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees, I am mindful of the important contributions made to our country's national security by our service members, military retirees, and their families. Recently Congress passed, and I supported, another substantial increase in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Full-year funding for veterans health care, claims processing and services amounts to a $4.5 billion increase in funding above the previous fiscal year. The current budget for the VA builds upon the historic increase that I supported last year, which provided the Department of Veterans Affairs with the largest funding increase in its 77-year history. 

Sadly, World War I did not end all wars, as Americans had hoped 90 years ago. A single American veteran from that terrible war survives today. Corporal Frank Buckles is the last surviving “doughboy”, or infantryman, from World War I. He was born in Missouri in 1901 and enlisted in the United States Army as “an underage, but enthusiastic recruit.” Earlier this year, the President of the United States welcomed the 107-year-old veteran to the White House. Please join me in thanking all veterans for their service and remembering all those who have worn the uniform of the United States armed forces throughout our country’s history.