Veterans hold a place in our society that is special. I know that they hold a place in my heart. My father served in WWII with the Marines in the South Pacific. The first action he saw was during the invasion of Okinawa. Later, he was 150 miles from the Japanese mainland when for the first time in his life he saw a mushroom cloud. Dad told me that his unit had already received orders to go the China coast in an effort to surround Japan. Thank God he did not have to go.
My younger brother served in the Navy during the first Gulf War. He was on a submarine tender and to this day, he can weld underwater. But as he says from his home in Northern Illinois, there isn’t a big call for that there.
I wanted to serve, but was deemed ineligible to serve because of a congenital heart defect. The Navy had tried to recruit me for their Nuclear Engineering program, and I often wonder how differently my life would have turned out, had I been able to serve.
A brief history of Veterans Day taken from va.gov – “In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “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 original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.
The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:
Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and
Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and
Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.”
In 1954, Eisenhower altered Armistice Day by proclamation – “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. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible.”
This change came about because of a store owner in Emporia, Kansas. A man named Al King wanted to celebrate all veterans, not just the World War I vets. He persuaded his Chamber of Commerce to get behind him on this, along with Emporia’s Board of Education. King turned to Republican U.S. Representative from Emporia, Ed Rees for assistance. Rees submitted the bill, causing Eisenhower to sign it into law, issuing the above proclamation.
As we fight this ongoing battle for freedom and liberty, we must take heart from that shoe store owner, Al King. One man and his idea, plus initiative and dedication DID make a difference. We can too. We owe it to all the veterans who gave their lives and sacrificed so that all Americans are free. They did not die, so that all Americans could become complacent. Freedom is worth fighting for and we must remember that were it not for those Americans that came before us, fighting and in many cases, dying for freedom, we would not even be able to have these discussions.
I want to leave you all with a poem by Joanna Fuchs:
To rule the world with violence
Is their one and only goal;
Terror is their method;
They want complete control.
We’ve seen it all before,
And we could not let it be;
We gave our lives for freedom,
For the world, and for you and me.
We fight all forms of oppression,
Helping victims far and near,
To keep the world from chaos,
To protect what we hold dear.
America’s the only country
That gives with its whole heart,
And asks so very little;
We always do our part.
So let’s unite again
To subdue our newest foe,
Whatever we must do,
Wherever we must go.
Let’s show the world once more
That America is blessed
With people who are heroes,
Who meet each and every test.
God Bless America, and God Bless our brave and valiant military.