It’s been 100 years since the last Kentuckians who fought in World War I came home. Veterans Day — which is celebrated on Monday — gives us an opportunity to thank those who have served America in our military.

Unlike Memorial Day, which honors those who have died while serving their country, Veterans Day, which was previously known as Armistice Day, marks the service of all U.S. military veterans.

In fact, it was on Nov. 11, 1919 — the first Armistice Day after WWI hostilities ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month a year earlier — that President Woodrow Wilson expressed what the day means to Americans.

In a message to the country, he wrote, “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 nations."

At the urging of veteran organizations, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

According to the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, there were approximately 302,000 living state veterans as of September 2016. The majority — about 106,000 — served in the Vietnam War; roughly 100,000 were involved in the Gulf War; and 71,000 served during peacetime. About 24,000 servicemen and servicewomen participated in the Korean War, and nearly 11,000 are World War II veterans.

Most of Kentucky’s military veterans are between the ages of 50 and 79. Men accounted for 281,000 and about 21,000 were servicewomen. In Franklin County, there were 3,706 veterans as of 2017, the latest data available from KVA.

Regardless of age or sex, all veterans deserve our appreciation, for their sacrifices are the reason we enjoy the freedoms and liberties we have today. Please take a moment in the coming days to thank a local military veteran for service to our country.

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