Blue background and red and white wavy stripes with white stars. Headshot of CEO David Harmer. Text on the image reads, "We the People of the United States, in Order to Form A More Perfect Union."

By David Harmer

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, an armistice between the allied nations and Germany took effect, ending the bloody hostilities of World War I. Today we commemorate the centennial of that occasion.

Originally celebrated as Armistice Day, November 11th later came to be known as Veterans Day—a holiday for which Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge has a particular affinity, because our founding chairman, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, issued the first Veterans Day Proclamation:

Whereas it has long been our custom to commemorate November 11, the anniversary of the ending of World War I, by paying tribute to the heroes of that tragic struggle and by rededicating ourselves to the cause of peace; and

Whereas in the intervening years the United States has been involved in two other great military conflicts, which have added millions of veterans living and dead to the honor rolls of this Nation; and …

Whereas, in order to expand the significance of that commemoration and in order that a grateful Nation might pay appropriate homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much to the preservation of this Nation, the Congress … changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day:

Now, Therefore, I, Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States of America, do hereby call upon all of our citizens to observe Thursday, November 11, 1954, as Veterans Day. On that day 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 reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain. …

In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans’ organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose.

Pursuant to President Eisenhower’s invitation, we here at Freedoms Foundation offer heartfelt thanks to all who have served in the armed forces of the United States. We are especially grateful to those veterans who also participate in our partner organizations:

  • American Veterans (AMVETS)
  • Military Order of the World Wars (MOWW)
  • National Sojourners
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)

Not only did those veterans serve their country while in the military, they continue to serve in many ways today. One way dear to our hearts is that they send students to our Spirit of America youth leadership programs. In the past year alone, MOWW sponsored and chaperoned 44 students; VFW, 48; National Sojourners, 60; and AMVETS, 85. MOWW recruited another 50 students funded by other sponsors. And National Sojourners aim to commemorate their 100th anniversary by sending 100 students next year!

In short, over the past year veterans organizations recruited and/or funded a total of 287 students from across the country. We are grateful for each one. In four days of residence on our Valley Forge campus, each of those students experienced …

  • Heated debates between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson;
  • Lively lectures from leading scholars of the American founding;
  • The Medal of Honor character development workshop;
  • A tour of colonial Philadelphia, including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin’s print shop and grave, Carpenters Hall, Christ Church, Betsy Ross’s house, and more;
  • A tour of Valley Forge National Historical Park, crucible of the Revolution.

Each program culminated in a re-enactment of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with each student inscribing his or her signature on a parchment reproduction of the original.

What effect does all that have? Students leave our campus not merely informed, but transformed—infused with appreciation for our shared heritage as Americans, and committed not only to exercise the rights of citizenship, but to shoulder the corresponding responsibilities. The mother of one of our participants wrote:

Heartfelt thanks for the wonderful experience that our son had at Valley Forge last week! He was thrilled with the entire experience and actually moved to tears and speechless for a moment after getting in the car at the airport. It was surprising and highly unusual to see him choke up with such intense emotion when asked about the trip. [He] said the speakers were truly remarkable and the group of young people he was able to associate with was outstanding. As parents we are so thankful for the time, effort and dedication of everyone involved in providing this life-changing positive experience. 

So today, as we pause to salute all veterans, we express special appreciation to those who help us cultivate patriots in the rising generation. For all you have done and all you continue to do, we salute you. We are honored to partner with you.

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