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VETERANS DAY 2008«Back to View Articles | Back to All Articles
A Day to Honor Those Who Served and are Serving in Peace and War
11/11/2008 - David Mower

The 11th Hours of the 11th Day of the 11th Month - That's how I remember Veterans Day from my youth.  A time for parades, speeches, and celebration.  Not so much any more, unless you are member of a Legion or VFW post.  Veterans and Veterans Day fell into disfavor after Vietnam when veterans were discounted as citizens of value and their service and sacrifice were denigrated.

Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day [or Rememberance Day], was originally set as a U.S. legal holiday to honor the end of World War I, which stopped with an "armistice" [temporary cease fire] signed at Rethondes, France effective on 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month - November 11, 1918. WW I at the time was normally referred to simply as The Great War (no one could imagine any war being greater!), formally and officially ended on 28 June 1919, with the final peace treaty, the infamous Treaty of Versailles between the Allies and Germany that "back dated" the official end of the war to the armistice of 11 November 1918.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed an Armistice Day for November 12, 1919. The United States Congress passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on June 4, 1926, requesting the President issue another proclamation to observe November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday; "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'."  As such, this new legal holiday originally honored World War I veterans.  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 AM.

In 1954, after having been through both World War II and the Korean War, the 83rd U.S. Congress -- at the urging of the veterans service organizations -- amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, Nov. 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

A Little More History

Also known as "the War to end all Wars", the First World War is considered today as the event which has had the greatest social and political impact in the annals of human history. It has been estimated that more than 61.5 million soldiers from all nations took part in the war, of which 8.5 million were killed, 12.5 million received recoverable injuries, and 7 million were permanently injured.  The United States, which entered the war late, suffered among the fewest losses, at approximately 116,000. Nevertheless, the impact the war had upon Americans was great.

In 1947, just 2 years after the end of World War II, Raymond Weeks, organized a "Veterans Day"

parade in Birmingham, AL, to celebrate all of America's veterans.   After the Korean War (19501953), during which over 36,000 Americans died, Congress considered making Armistice Day a day to commemorate veterans of all wars, not only those who served in World War I.  In 1954, Kansas Representative Edwin K. Rees introduced a bill that would change the purpose of Armistice Day to honor veterans of all wars. On June 1, 1954, President Eisenhower signed the bill into law, officially renaming Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

Later that same year, on October 8, Eisenhower issued a proclaimation creating a new "Veterans Day National Committee" and naming the Administrator of the Department of Veterans Affairs as its coordinator. The Committee would be responsible for planning all national ceremonies and to set an example for state and local governments, as well as providing suggestions for Americans on how to celebrate Veterans Day. Today, the Veterans Day National Committee coordinates all federal ceremonies relating to Veterans Day, including the annual ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Tomb of the Unknow Solider is directly connected to Veterans Day.  On November 11, 1920, England laid to rest an unknown soldier in Westminster Abbey, a way to commemorate their losses in the war. France had carried a similar act the same year at the Arc de Triomphe.

On November 11, 1921, the United States followed-up with their own version. An unknown soldier, who had already been laid to rest at a cemetery in Europe, was selected and placed aboard a ship to Washington D.C. It was to fill the new "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier". It was a much hyped and heralded event that received press coverage from coast-to-coast. Thousands of people flocked to see the body laying in state in the Capitol rotunda. There was a funeral procession down Pennsylvania Avenue. Each state sent in floral arrangements to adorn the tomb. President Harding laid a wreath of flowers on the casket. Taps was played. The casket was placed into the tomb at 11:00am. The President requested that all flags be flown at half-mast.

Though this event had been performed a year earlier in England and France, it had a more powerful effect among Americans. That single unknown soldier not only symbolized America's losses, but each American's losses and sacrifices in the war.

On Memorial Day of 1958, two more unknown soldiers were reinterred along side the unknown soldier of World War I. One was a casualty of World War II and the other one of the Korean War. In 1973, a law was passed to add another unknown soldier from the Vietnam war, but none could be found until 1984.

Every November 11, a ceremony is held in Arlington National Cemetery, at the "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier". The President recreates the original event by placing a wreath at the tomb, and Taps is played. 

THANK A VETERAN ON VETERANS DAY

So if you voted on November 4th, thank a veteran who has served, fought, and sacrificed that you still have the freedom to cast a ballot.  They are often the ordinary man or woman you pass on the street every day.  Most served their country without fanfare or notoriety, just humbly proud to have done their part to preserve our country's freedom for the next generation.  They will be embarrassed to be recognized and thanked.  But, our thanks are due.

 American Legion Post 86 (Adams) - Kilmarnock  VFW Post 7167 - Warsaw
 American Legion Post 117 - Reedville  VFW Post 10574 - Colonial Beach
 American Legion Post 252 - Montross  VFW Post 8717 - King George
 American Legion Post 401 - Warsaw  


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