November 11, 2018 | The Progress-Index

Today is Veterans Day, a day in which we as a nation honor all those who served this country as a member of the United States Armed Forces. It is different from Memorial Day, the day we honor those who gave their life defending freedom, and Armed Forces Day, the day we recognize all active duty military.

Veterans Day has a unique history, one that is particularly relevant in 2018. Veterans Day was first observed as “Armistice Day” on November 11, 1919, the first anniversary of what is commonly noted as the end of World War I. (Though fighting ended on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” in 1918, the United States officially remained at war until 1921 when peace treaties with Germany, Austria, and Hungary were ratified in the United States Senate.)

The First World War was one of the most harrowing and brutal conflicts in our nation’s history. More than 116,000 Americans were killed in the conflict and nearly twice that number were wounded. Over 100,000 Virginians answered the call to serve in the war, with 3,700 dying from disease, combat, and training accidents. We can never forget the ultimate sacrifice paid by our fellow Virginians and Americans.

In 1926, Congress passed a resolution establishing Armistice Day as an annual observance. It became a national holiday in 1938. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a veteran himself, signed legislation changing the name to Veterans Day in 1954.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities between Allied and Central forces in World War I. In order to recognize these events, the Virginia General Assembly established the Virginia World War I and World War II Commemoration Commission to plan and carry out programs and activities to commemorate the end of the war and educate future generations.

One such program driven by the Commission is the Profiles of Honor mobile tour which brings the stories of Virginians’ sacrifices in both world wars to communities across our Commonwealth. As part of the tour, visitors are invited to bring their own WWI and WWII-related photographs to be scanned for inclusion in the Virginia Profiles of Honor project. This partnership with the Library of Virginia will help preserve the documents and stories of our veterans for generations.

As chairman of Virginia’s World War I and World War II Commemoration Commission and a longtime supporter of our military service members, I encourage you to take advantage of these programs. A full list of dates and programs for the Commission can be viewed by visiting their website at www.virginiawwiandwwii.org.

But how else can we recognize our veterans? Here in Virginia, we are on a mission to make this state the most veteran friendly state in the Union. After all, we are home to many military installations and 725,000 veterans.

During the 2018 legislative session, the General Assembly passed several pieces of legislation to help ease the transition from active duty to veteran. House Bill 533 requires the Board of Medicine and the Board of Dentistry to accept the military training, education, or experience of a service member honorably discharged from active military service so long as the training is substantially equivalent to any laws and regulations of the respective boards. House Bill 737 requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to include a veteran indicator on driver’s licenses, permits, and identification cards for ease of use. And on Election Day, voters approved an amendment to the Virginia Constitution allowing for localities to offer the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran to receive property tax exemption for their permanent residence.

These recent legislative advances follow earlier successful efforts to construct two new veterans care centers. These centers, run by the nationally recognized Virginia Department of Veterans Services, provide affordable, long-term nursing care for Virginia veterans. As Delegate for the 66th district, I was honored to carry legislation that will add two new care centers opening in 2021 to serve our Commonwealth and her veterans.

Virginia is quite literally forged by veterans; their stories surround us. Whether it be the battlefields at Yorktown where soldiers defeated the British and secured our independence or the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford that recognizes the sacrifices of the heroic “Bedford Boys” during the D-Day invasions of World War II, Virginia has ample opportunities to immerse oneself in the story of our veterans. And right here in the Tri-Cities at Fort Lee, the newly reopened U.S. Army Women’s Museum tells the unique story of female soldiers and veterans.

This Veterans Day, thank a veteran and commit to learning more about their story.

Delegate M. Kirkland “Kirk” Cox is the chairman of the Virginia World War I and World War II Commemoration Commission and the 55th Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates. He represents the 66th district (City of Colonial Heights and part of Chesterfield County) in the House of Delegates.

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