On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the armistice that brought an end to the fighting in the “War to End All Wars” finally took effect, but not soon enough to prevent the deaths of tens of millions of people, 550 of them Mainers.
Hello, I am Senator Brad Farrin from State Senate District 3.
Ever since that day, now 101 years ago, we have called November 11th “Armistice Day,” and since 1954 we set aside the Monday nearest to it as the official holiday of “Veterans Day.”
Unfortunately for mankind, that war did not live up to its original billing—it did not “end all wars.” Not even close. In all, Maine has lost more than 3,000 of its own, killed in warfare since 1918.
Though Maine’s population may be small by comparison to other states, the commitment to our nation and the principles that it represents, freedom—honor—service—democracy, are large by any measure.
Nearly eight score years ago, on the 19th of November 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gained immortality when he spoke over the graves of Union soldiers at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg. Among them lay the bodies of more than one hundred Mainers.
As the dead could speak no more except through their memory, Lincoln reminded those present that “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”
A few days after his speech, Lincoln declared that the fourth Thursday of November would be a national day of thanksgiving for the Union victory at Gettysburg and it would be celebrated as a national holiday every year afterward.
And so our annual Thanksgiving Day was set to a specific date and declared a national holiday on behalf of those who sacrificed their lives to preserve the Union.
Whether we pause on Armistice Day, Veterans Day, or Thanksgiving Day to honor those who have given what Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion” to their country, their family, and their hometown, it is, as he said “altogether fitting and proper that we do this.”
Teddy Roosevelt, another U.S. President and a Medal of Honor recipient, credited his time as a teenager in Maine, spending winters around Mount Katahdin, for making him the hardy outdoorsman we remember him as today.
Speaking of his admiration for his fellow veterans, he once said that,
“A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards . . . I speak in reverence of our brave and selfless veterans.”
Roosevelt was right. We must honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice and at the same time do the best we can for those veterans who live amongst us today, for without their willingness to defend our nation and our homeland, we would not enjoy the relative peace and prosperity which we often take for granted.
That’s why I encourage you to take a few minutes this weekend and participate in whatever commemoration might be taking place in your city or town.
To commemorate service year-round, the Maine Bureau of Veterans Services started one of the first veteran recognition programs in the nation. Now, honorably discharged men and women can receive a certificate of appreciation and a service coin, including a new Honorable Service Coin for those who served outside of the three designated war periods. The bureau also has six field offices across the state and a claims office at Togus. At the same time, it partners with federal Veterans Administration on many programs.
To my fellow veterans, I would like to make one important point. Many of you have neglected to seek services through the bureau on the mistaken belief that doing so would take away resources for other veterans who need them more.
Actually, the opposite is true. Every time a veteran makes a claim here in our state, more resources come to Maine on behalf of other veterans. That is how the system is set up. These services were created for you on behalf of a grateful nation. Do not hesitate to take advantage of them.
You can learn more about the bureau’s programs online at maine.gov/veterans.
It is a great honor to speak with you today mindful that American service men and women overseas are at this moment fighting the longest war in our nation’s history. It is important that we take a moment out of our busy week to remember those who have served when our country called.
Again, I am Senator Brad Farrin from State Senate District 3. Have a safe and happy Veterans Day Weekend, and if you have the opportunity, thank a veteran.