Veterans Day not only has strong support across Alabama, it actually has its roots here. The idea of a national holiday honoring all veterans, from both war and peacetime, has its origins here in our state. Back in 1945, Birmingham’s Raymond Weeks first proposed changing Armistice Day, which was at the time set aside to honor veterans from World War I, to a day to honor all those who have served our nation.
He first saw success with the idea here in Alabama, when in 1947 the first ever Veterans Day celebration was held. Several years later, Raymond took this idea to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who signed it into law in 1954. We have observed this day on November 11 every year for the past 61 years. And Weeks is known as the “father of Veterans Day.”
I believe that Veterans Day is one of the most important national holidays we celebrate. The brave men and women who put on a uniform and served our country are some of the most patriotic and selfless Americans who have ever lived. They sacrificed so much for our country, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. Observing Veterans Day is one way we can do that, but we can also do more. Specifically, we can honor our veterans by ensuring their sacrifices have helped the U.S. military remain the greatest on the face of the Earth.
However, we also must realize that those sacrifices can be fragile and fleeting. As President Reagan said, “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Therefore, we must always be ready to defend freedom both at home and abroad.
To that point, as a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee in Congress, I am honored to play a role in securing vital federal funding for our military. I can confidently say that, right now, a top priority of our nation must be building up our defense and providing our military with all the resources needed to defend our land from adversaries. It is clear that some potential adversaries are investing rapidly in weapons system, including expensive hardware testing. If we let the United States fall behind, the costs of those consequences are not going to be more expensive than if we had maintained our edge.
If we look to places like China and Russia, we know that those countries are already capable of advanced missile production. Furthermore, North Korea is trying to join Russia and China as a nuclear power. Additionally, Russia is not effectively blocking cyberattack criminals who operate within the Russian sphere of influence. Cyber is the new field of warfare, and the United States must be a leader, not a follower in terms of our cyber capability.
North Korea has recently reinstituted missile testing and they are quickly developing their capabilities. More specifically, they have tested launching mid-range missiles from newly developed submarines and trains that are designed to evade U.S. interceptors. North Korea’s aggression toward South Korea and Japan has led many to conclude that those two nations, allies of the U.S., are at high risk of attack as those weapons are perfected. Meanwhile, North Korea’s “space” program appears more aligned with the goal of intercontinental ballistic missile weapons capabilities.
We know that China has been building up its defense capabilities for a long time, but the recent progress they have made is shocking. Just last month the Chinese Communist Party launched a low-orbit hypersonic missile that went around the globe undetected. Although China claims it is a spacecraft, the threat is that an orbiting item like this designed to be a weapon, can strike U.S. ground forces or U.S. aircraft carriers anywhere on the globe. With or without a nuclear warhead, that is a potentially crippling threat. This is an arms race the U.S. did not start, but it is a race we cannot afford to ignore. Both testing and production must increase dramatically.
The United States needs a strong defense, and that means providing the resources and funding necessary to remain the greatest military on Earth. North Alabama is leading the way on U.S. hypersonics efforts. Just last month I attended the groundbreaking of Lockheed Martin’s new hypersonic missile plant in Courtland, which is in the 4th Congressional District. Army and private sector engineers in Alabama routinely work in partnership with the Navy on design and testing. Huntsville plays a key role in the defense industry, and remaining on the front lines of defense development is key to protecting the United States.
But more than all that, we know the world stage is ever-changing when it comes to military capabilities, and it is vital that the U.S is a leader on every front. If we do that, we set ourselves up for the future, and we honor all those that helped get us there. And that is, I believe, the best tribute we can give our veterans. Showing them that their sacrifices and bravery were not in vain, but rather that they propelled us past our adversaries and helped continue the tradition of American military excellence.
So, as we celebrate and honor our veterans this year, it is important to think about the future while thanking those who have protected us in the past. Veterans Day had its origins here in Alabama, and it’s Alabama that will continue to support our veterans and active-duty service members with the best support and the best tools possible.
I hope you all have a safe and blessed Veterans Day. And to those who have served, thank you and may God bless you!
U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04) is a Republican from Haleyville.