War veteran, Frank Sykes salutes during the fifth annual Veterans Day Parade in Philadelphia on Nov. 3.

In March 1865, President Abraham Lincoln gave his second inaugural address. Though the Civil War was winding down, Americans remained bitterly divided. Lincoln spoke of the debt owed to those who fought in the war: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Those immortal words not only helped heal and reunite Americans, they also established the federal government’s firm commitment to care for the men and women who have answered their country’s call to arms.

Lincoln’s hope for a lasting peace was not to be. By 1917, Americans were immersed in World War I. At the end of that war, President Woodrow Wilson decreed that: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

With the passage of time, other wars have required American men and women to serve their country. They have done so well and honorably. In their homage, we include a selection of Veterans Day quotes from other American presidents:

“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.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower, Nov. 11, 1954

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” — John F. Kennedy, Nov. 11, 1963

“We remember those who were called upon to give all a person can give, and we remember those who were prepared to make that sacrifice if it were demanded of them in the line of duty, though it never was. Most of all, we remember the devotion and gallantry with which all of them ennobled their nation as they became champions of a noble cause.” — Ronald Reagan, Nov. 11, 1988

“It’s about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It’s about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they’ve earned when they come home. It’s about serving all of you as well as you’ve served the United States of America.” — Barack Obama, Nov. 11, 2010.

— Robin Beres

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