For U.S. Army veteran Sam Lea, each November brings an opportunity to honor former comrades and give thanks for his own military service.
“Not only is Veterans Day a time to recognize and pay tribute to all veterans who have served their country, but it’s always a time of reflection for me,” said Lea, of Reidsville, North Carolina, who served from 1985 to 1989, specializing in road and bridge construction projects.
A production planner with a chemical company, Lea will graduate from Florida Institute of Technology in December 2014 with his Master of Business Administration in Management, which he completed 100% online.
“I think back to my military experience and how it was a real eye-opener,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to experience first-hand the cultural differences that exist in foreign countries like Panama and Germany, and witness in real life how Americans are perceived by foreigners.”
“So, when Veterans Day rolls around every year, I think back to those experiences and the enriching effect they had on my life during that time period and even today,” Lea said.
Brett Knaub’s 25-year career in the U.S. Air Force took him to postings around the nation. Today, the decorated veteran works at U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) headquarters in Nebraska, where he is Chief of the Transition Division for the Project Global Shield Project Management Office.
“On Veterans Day, we honor the tens of millions of our citizens who risk, or have risked, everything to defend our great nation every day for nearly 2 ½ centuries,” said Knaub, who graduated in June from Florida Tech’s 100% online MBA in Project Management program. “I’m extremely proud of our veterans, and I’m forever grateful for their sacrifice during peacetime and war.”
“I’m humbled beyond words to be included in their ranks,” he said.
Knaub and Lea are among the approximately 22 million veterans nationwide, a number that is expected to fall below 15 million within 30 years, according to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs statistics. Among current veterans, about 16.5 million served during wartime, including roughly 1 million survivors of World War II.
The nation’s annual tribute to its veterans dates to 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as Armistice Day. The date marked the first anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended hostilities during World War I.
In 1938, Armistice Day was declared a legal holiday in the United States. Within a few years, however, the nation once again was embroiled in a global conflict.
Following World War II and the Korean War, an Act of Congress in 1954 renamed the holiday Veterans Day in order to include veterans who served in conflicts other than The Great War.
“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,” declared the proclamation of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had served as commanding general of the Army in Europe during World War II.
Sixty years on, federal officials and representatives of veterans groups will gather at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital, for a public observance of Veterans Day, including the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“Ever since our nation’s birth, men and women willingly left their homes, families and livelihoods to defend America, American ideals, values and vital interests around the world,” Knaub said. “When America called, her vets answered.”
“To this very day, all veterans swear to defend our nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so that our children and grandchildren can grow up in a world where individual liberty and other God-given rights are protected from evil,” he said. “There is a saying I like that best describes the sacrifices of our nation’s veterans, ‘All gave some, but some gave all.’”