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Veterans Day 2014
A group of people unfurl an American flag at the 9/11 Memorial just days before the country celebrates Veterans Day 2014. Reuters

Each year, Americans take a day to honor the brave and proud citizens that have served or are serving in some branch of the United States military. Veterans Day is our chance to extend our gratitude to those with the courage to protect this nation, knowing that it may mean laying down their lives.

This U.S. holiday can actually trace its origin back to a palace in France. On June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles, World War I came to its official end with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. However, according to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, fighting in the conflict ceased seven months earlier, on Nov. 11, 1918. The following year, President Woodrow Wilson declared Nov. 11 Armistice Day.

“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,” Wilson said.

Congress named Nov. 11 a legal holiday in 1938. While the holiday was meant to commemorate World War I veterans, its meaning became broader following World War II. This led the 83rd Congress to change Armistice Day to Veterans Day. On Nov. 11, 1954, the United States celebrated the first Veterans Day, designed to honor all veterans who serve in a war. To celebrate this holiday, we’ve compiled some of the best quotes throughout history by veterans and for veterans:

“Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have ever made a difference in the world, but the Marines don’t have that problem.” – Ronald Reagan

“How important it is for us to recognize our heroes and she-roes!” – Maya Angelou

“The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.” – Patrick Henry

“Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country's cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.” – Abraham Lincoln

“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” – Billy Graham

"Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul." -- Michel de Montaigne

"It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the organizer, who gave us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag." – Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, USMC

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation." – George Washington

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.” – G.K. Chesterton

“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

“Perfect valor is to behave, without witness, as one would act were all the world watching.” – Francois de la Rochefoucauld

“I believe it is the nature of people to be heroes, given the chance.” – James A. Autry

"The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it." – Thucydides

“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.” – Elmer Davis

“The willingness of America’s veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude.” – Jeff Miller