The Nation Which Forgets Its Defenders Will Itself Be Forgotten

Armistitium. A Latin word composed of the words arma, meaning “arms” (as in weapons) and sistere, meaning “to come to a stand” or “to cause to stop”. You may know this word by its English version, armistice.

102 years ago, the United States of America and its allies signed an armistice with Germany ending the “Great War”, a war that in itself contributed to 35 million casualties. Imagine everyone in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia disappeared and you get close to the number of casualties. Almost unimaginable, but since then our country has called upon its military over 200 times to provide humanitarian aid, military assistance, security forces, international training, and so forth.

In 1920 Calvin Coolidge quoted the Byzantine emperor Flavius Mauricius Tiberius Augustus: “The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.”

Today at the 11th hour of this the 11th day of the 11th month we have not forgotten our defenders. We take time to shake hands, both physically and in gesture, to thank our friends who have helped defend our nation. We praise and thank those who paved the way before us. To give to us and protect the freedom to choose, grow, and work hard for our own dreams and futures. On this day we say “thank you” to all persons who have taken our country’s well-being into their hands.

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

On May 13, 1938, an Act of Congress made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars and to honor the service of people who have worn the uniforms of the armed forces.

Thank you to all veterans and their families for serving our nation selflessly. The United States of America is what it is because you have given it and its people the opportunity.

Would all veterans here tonight please stand.

Please join me and take the time to honor and thank each of these fellow Scout leaders who have served to protect this nation and our freedoms.