AUGUSTA — While visiting the VA Maine Healthcare System at Togus earlier this month, I was struck by a sign I saw on an office door that read, “Every Day is Veterans Day at this Office.”

As an Army veteran, I really appreciated the sentiment. As the acting director of the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services, it caused me to think about the importance of Veterans Day to the patriotic men and women across our nation who currently are serving or served in the five branches of the armed forces. Veterans who gave of themselves at times of war and peace, who left their homes, families and jobs behind because of their great sense of duty to their country.

Veterans Day dates to the First World War, when the armistice between Germany and the Allied nations went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (Nov. 11, 1918). The following year, on Nov. 11, 1919, the end of the fighting in World War I was referred to by President Woodrow Wilson in his commemoration: “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.”

The day was originally celebrated with parades and public events, and a moment of pause for military personnel, civilians and business at 11 a.m. It is also celebrated by the British throughout the United Kingdom and their Commonwealths around the world in a similar manner.

In 1926, Congress passed a resolution requiring a reoccurring anniversary of the date, marked with appropriate ceremonies. This was followed in 1938 by the approval of a law making Nov. 11 a legal holiday dedicated to honoring the veterans of World War I. The holiday was broadened to honor veterans of all wars in 1954, by the 83rd Congress, which changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I.

To me, the holiday is much more than just an observance. It is an opportunity for every one of us to thank a veteran for their service, to remember those who were wounded in action and who live with reminders of their injuries every day and to instill the importance within our communities of never forgetting those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live as a free nation.

In addition to offering a “thank you,” take a moment and ask a veteran close to you about their time in the service. It’s a great opportunity to learn about what they have done for our country, and you don’t have to wait for this one day each year.

Reaching out to a veteran could also make a profound difference in that person’s life. The Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services is committed to reducing the rate of suicides among Maine veterans. We are making progress, but we need your help. The simple act of asking a veteran how they are doing and listening to their response could save a life. If you are concerned about a veteran’s mental health, call 800-273-8255 (TALK) and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line, or text to 838255; our website is maine.gov/veterans.

Our job is to make sure Maine veterans get the help they need, and all that they have earned, so please do not hesitate to contact us. It is important that we recognize their service on Veterans Day, but as the sign says and their sacrifice demands, “Every day is Veterans Day.”