As South Dakotans, we are fortunate to live in the greatest state in the greatest nation in the world. The people who live here are what make South Dakota so great. They work hard, give back to their communities and care about their family and friends. South Dakotans also have a long history of honoring our military members and veterans, whose sacrifice and bravery allows us to go about our lives freely and safely each and every day.
Nearly every town in the state does something special to thank those who serve, whether it is a parade on Independence Day, a public ceremony for our military members when they deploy and when they return home or a memorial to commemorate those we lost. Americans owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women who have served our country. On Veterans Day, and every day, South Dakota honors them.
Veterans Day takes place in the United States every year Nov. 11, the day the armistice was signed that ended World War I. The holiday was originally called Armistice Day, but was changed to Veterans Day by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, in which more than four million Americans served. Veterans Day is a special time to honor our veterans.
Making life better for veterans is important to many people in South Dakota. In the Senate, I serve on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, where we work on legislation to make sure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is fulfilling its duties to our nation’s veterans. My office also works directly with South Dakota vets and their families to cut through the bureaucracy to get them the care and benefits they are owed. If you or a veteran you know is having any trouble with the VA, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We also participate in a program to honor Vietnam-era veterans with a ceremony and a commemorative lapel pin. For more information on casework or the lapel pin program visit my website, rounds.senate.gov.
During the eight years that I worked as governor, the U.S. was fighting the War on Terror. I’ll never forget the young men and women we sent off to fight. I will also always remember the family and friends of those we lost while attending 31 of the funerals for those who did not return. All who fought to defend our freedoms are forever recognized and honored for their service. One way we sought to honor our veterans was by organizing memorials for those who have served their country. We dedicated the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials in Pierre in 2004 and 2006, respectively. Many of the veterans who live in South Dakota served during these two wars, and the memorials that still stand in Pierre today are one of the ways we let them know how grateful we are to them and to say thank you.
On Veterans Day, we honor our living veterans as well as those who are no longer with us. We recently received word that the VA has prioritized a plan for a veterans cemetery in the eastern part of the state. There is still more work to do, but once it is completed this cemetery will serve as a final resting place for those who fought for our country and will be a place for all Americans to honor those who served. I am thankful to the South Dakota Veterans Council, the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs and our Veterans Service Organization chapters for their work to advance this project.
To all South Dakota veterans, Jean and I thank you. Because of your service, our country remains the greatest in the world and our people remain free. This Veterans Day, I encourage South Dakotans to give a special thanks to the men and women who have worn the uniform of the United States of America.
—By Sen. Mike Rounds