|By Kevin Devlin
Veteran’s Day is a celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”
At 11 a.m. on Veteran’s Day, a combined color guard representing all the branches of our military, will execute a “Present Arms” at the “Tomb of the Unknowns” at the Arlington National Cemetery. A presidential wreath will then be placed at the Tomb and taps will be played to honor those who served and for those who died for their country.
Veteran’s Day honors all of the living, as well as the dead, who served their country in wartime and during peace.
And so, how did this national holiday begin?
In 1918, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the world rejoiced and celebrated. World War I or the “Great War” as it was called back then had ended. Thirty-five countries were involved in this war from 1914 to 1918 and America fought oversees from 1917 to 1918. After four years of bitter fighting and bloodshed, an armistice was signed signifying the end of hostilities in the “The war to end all wars.” People danced and laughed in the streets, blew horns and rang bells. They thought there would never be another war of such magnitude. How could there be? It was so horrific, so much death, so much heartache and so much chaos and destruction.
To pay homage to those who served their country, President Woodrow Wilson designated November 11, 1919, as a holiday and named it “Armistice Day.” In 1921, the body of an “Unknown Soldier” his name “Known but to God” was brought from a cemetery in France to the states and buried in the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
In 1926, Congress adopted “a resolution directing the president to issue an annual proclamation calling on the observance of Armistice Day.” Then, on May 13, 1938,
Congress passed new legislation making November 11 a legal Federal holiday.
World War I was not to be the war to end all wars, but only the beginning of more bloodshed and wars in the modern era. The twentieth century would indeed show no mercy for mankind, as war upon war, death upon death, became the order of the day. It would seem that war was the natural order of interaction between nations, and peace just an aberration, an interlude, waiting to be set aside again due to failed diplomacy.
In 1939, Hitler’s armored divisions swept across the plains of Poland and for a brief period of time, Europe was plunged into darkness under the tyrannical yoke of the Nazi warlord. And on the other side of the world, the Japanese war machine was also causing havoc and turning the Pacific and Asian world upside down. In 1945, World War II ended. The world had suffered devastation, grief, and death never before recorded in the annals of history. Fifty-five million soldiers and civilians died in this war. Then, in the early fifties, came the Korean War-ridiculously referred to as a police action.
With these monumental events came outright dismay and skepticism, burying the notion of celebrating Armistice Day. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill that changed the name of this holiday to Veteran’s Day, a day in which to honor all servicemen and women who served in all of America’s wars. This would later include the Vietnam War and the wars in the Middle East. And, writing another chapter in Middle Eastern affairs, we are now embroiled in “Wars Against Terrorism” in Afghanistan and Iraq that has given birth to yet another generation of veterans.
In 1968, the country passed the Monday Holiday Law that established the fourth Monday in October as the new date for the observance of Veteran’s Day. But many in the nation felt that this was unpatriotic and wanted to keep the holiday on the date originally intended. As a result, in 1975, new legislation was enacted which went into effect in 1978, making the holiday fall on the exact date.
This Veteran’s Day, give thanks to those living and to those now dead, who served their country in war and in peace so that we could all live in a democratic society. Take time and reflect about those countless young men and women, who unselfishly and heroically sacrificed their lives for us, so that we could enjoy life. Enjoying life, something they could not do, because they were called upon to sacrifice theirs for others, as well as to preserve freedom.
At 11 a.m., continue the tradition observed by millions of Americans throughout the decades. Remain silent for two minutes and prayer for those, living and dead, who served their country and protected our way of life.
It is a solemn time to honor and say, “Thank you” to those veterans who served their country.
They undoubtedly deserve our respect, our admiration, and our gratitude for all time.