Members of the University of Arizona Air Force ROTC March past the viewing stand outside Tucson City Hall on Alameda Street during the 99th Tucson Veterans Day Parade on November 12, 2018 in Tucson, AZ. The theme this year was “Celebration of Armistice Day.”

According to the 2017 U.S. Census Bureau survey, there were 18.2 million military veterans in the United States.

The 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month ... President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as Armistice Day commemorating the ending of “the war to end all wars,” WWI in 1918. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day in order to include all U.S. veterans. Deceased veterans are, of course, remembered on Memorial Day, but the intent of Veterans Day is to set aside a day to thank and honor living veterans who served honorably in the military, and sacrificed during war and peace.

Today, there are 21.8 million veterans of the U.S. armed forces. Over 500,000 of them, including airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen live in Arizona. Since 1925 Tucson has been privileged and honored to host Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, and since 1969, the 162nd Wing, (Arizona Air National Guard) at Tucson International Airport, the Arizona Army National Guard and others.

We take pride in all our veterans who work responsible jobs, live in our neighborhoods, attend and teach at our schools, pray at our churches, coach our sports teams and volunteer wherever needed to make a difference.

Tucson supports Davis-Monthan and 162nd Wing airmen in their mission areas, which include air, space and now the cyber domain. Tucson airmen participated in the unconditional victory of WWII, the Berlin Airlift, the Cold War, the gauntlet of MiG Alley, the skies over the jungles of Southeast Asia, the air war over Bosnia and air combat in the deserts of Southwest Asia. Also, thanks to all our veterans, terrorism has not gone unanswered.

We respect our Arizona National Guardsmen who serve the state and our nation in a variety of ways. They have been activated and deployed in support of our nation’s ongoing military commitments.

When our military members are called to action, the support from our Tucson community to veterans has helped them respond to threats from rogue nations and much more. They deploy knowing our community will help take care of their families.

Superior high-tech weapons and aerospace vehicles are important, but it’s been the quality of our veterans, their courage, capability and commitment that makes us the most powerful nation in the world.

If you love your freedom, go out of your way and thank a U.S. Veteran. They pledged an oath to give his or her life to defend yours! That is special and deserves our heartfelt thanks.

Lt. Gen. (retired) Thomas Keck lives in Tucson.