What we now call Veterans Day was supposed to be a day to commemorate the war to end all wars, the war that would make the world safe for democracy.
That is a sobering thought today, a day when banks and government offices and some schools are closed to mark the holiday. A day when America is still reeling from the attacks of September 11, a day when America is once again at war.
Day of joy: Eighty-three years ago, was the first Armistice Day, a day of celebration for America. The nation was joyously preparing to welcome home the sons it had sent "over there" to fight in the World War.
Church bells rang and people swarmed into the streets to celebrate the end of a war that claimed 53,513 American lives during the 18 months that the United States was actively involved. No one on that happy day dreamed that just 23 years later the United States would be pulled into another war.
What had been the World War became World War I and America sent millions of its men and women to Europe, the Pacific, Africa and Asia to fight and serve in World War II. Nearly 300,000 never returned. But on V-E Day and V-J Day in 1945 no one imagined that just five years later American soldiers would be dying in Korea or that 20 years later they would be dying in Vietnam.
And no one -- absolutely no one -- could imagine that in the year 2001 the United States would be drawn into the first war of the 21st century by the kind of terrorist attacks witnessed September 11.
The first casualties of this war were thousands of office workers in New York, hundreds of business and pleasure travelers on four commercial airliners and nearly 200 workers at the Pentagon.
The unknown: Exactly what lies ahead is unknown. That message was articulated by Vice President Dick Cheney when he placed a wreath of red, white and blue flowers on the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery Sunday. "Americans have no illusions about the difficulties that lie ahead," Cheney said. "We cannot predict the length or the course of the conflict. But we know with absolute certainty that this nation will persevere and we will prevail."
And we know that victory will not come without sacrifice -- by American soldiers and sailors and by the American people.
This Veterans Day, Americans would do well to remember the sacrifices that have been made to preserve freedom and democracy and dedicate ourselves to do what is necessary to win this new war.