One hundred years ago, “the war to end all wars” ravaged Europe. What we now call World War I ended in part thanks to the more than four million Americans who mobilized to join the Allied Powers’ fight overseas. Over 100,000 of them did not return home. The war ended on November 11, 1918, and the commemoration of that day has become the holiday we now observe as Veterans Day.
On Veterans Day, we express our thanks to the men and women in uniform, from World War I and from every era, who have served our country with honor and distinction. We pay tribute to their service, and we recognize that the freedoms we enjoy as Americans are not without cost. In fact, they were earned through the sacrifices of every American who wears or wore the uniform of our nation.
Kentucky has a proud and venerable military history, as our Commonwealth is home to the important installations of Fort Knox, Fort Campbell, and the Blue Grass Army Depot, home to thousands of soldiers and their families. Kentucky also looks with great pride upon the many brave National Guard members and Reservists within our borders who have given so much to defend our nation.
In all, Kentucky is home to more than 330,000 veterans who have served bravely in uniform. They risked their all for their country, and I’m proud to represent them in the United States Senate. I’m also proud of my efforts in the Senate to make America’s commitment to its veterans a top priority.
In Congress we have a responsibility to advocate for our servicemembers and veterans, and to ensure that they get the treatment they deserve during and after their service. Although we have more work to do, we have begun the process of making the Veterans Administration more accountable and more efficient so that it can do just that.
As Senate Majority Leader I brought the veterans and military construction funding bill forward. It will provide funding for many important projects, including design work at a new VA medical center in Louisville, a special operations headquarters at Fort Campbell, and educational facilities at Fort Knox.
I got the chance to meet many of the brave Kentuckians who are currently serving in our military when I took a recent trip to visit our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan, several thousand American troops remain stationed there to train and advise Afghan security forces as part of Operation Resolute Support.
Sadly, around the time of my visit a NATO helicopter crashed in Kabul, killing five people, including two American servicemembers. I was honored to take part in a prayer service led by a Kentucky soldier, a chaplain from Lexington, who was one of the first on the scene at the deadly crash.
This tragic crash was a stark reminder of the incredible danger our servicemen and women face every day on our behalf. It reminds us of the debt every citizen owes them for keeping our country safe. On this Veterans Day, let us express our gratitude to those who wear or have worn the uniform. And let us never forget to honor in our hearts those who made the ultimate sacrifice. It is thanks to them that America has been, and remains, the greatest nation on earth.