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A time to honor our military heroes and take pride in their service, sacrifice and commitment. But, most of all, it’s our duty to say thanks.
By Sue Curry Jones
Public holidays are occasions we all anticipate and look forward to each year. We celebrate these special days for a host of reasons, and in a variety of ways.
For youth, holidays signify a day off from school and time without homework. What great fun that is.
In the business world, holidays offer a day from the workday world –– a time to relax, have fun or work around the house.
However, most of our annual holidays represent time spent with family and friends, and gatherings filled with fellowship. Holidays are occasions we anticipate and look forward to, as these get-togethers are dear to our hearts.
Consequently, this week as we move toward Veteran’s Day and another legal holiday, it is imperative we all take time to remember the important focus of the day –– our veterans. Veterans Day is a day to recognize those who defend our land in times of war, and those who maintain harmony during times of peace. And, to remember those who gave their all.
Veteran’s Day is an occasion to recognize and honor our veterans for patriotism and loyalty. To show respect for their love of country and freedom. To be mindful of their willingness and readiness to serve. To remember the hardships of war, and acts of sacrifice.
It is a time to remember that our “land of the free” will only continue to exist as long as citizens of the United States stand strong and uphold the “home of the brave.” And, with the conclusion of World War I, this mindset was the start of a Veterans Day holiday.
World War I ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, at the Palace of Versailles, just outside the village of Versailles, France. However, the fighting had actually ceased seven months earlier when a temporary stop to the aggression between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (Nov. 11, 1918).
The following year, Nov. 1919, President Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first 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…” World War I was noted as “the war to end all wars”; it was called “The Great War”.
The intent of Armistice Day was to honor WWI veterans with parades and public forums. It also set a time for businesses to suspend activities on the day, starting at eleven o’clock a.m.
As an official act in remembrance of World War I, Congress passed a resolution on June 4, 1926, citing 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.
On May 13, 1938, Congress formally established Nov. 11, as a recurring legal holiday to be called Armistice Day, a day dedicated to the cause of world peace
In 1954, after U. S. involvement in World War II, the largest mobilization of forces in our Nation’s history, and participation in the Korean War, Congress amended the Act of 1938 to read Veterans Day instead of Armistice Day, specifying the day as an occasion to honor all American veterans of war.
On Oct. 8, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first “Veterans Day Proclamation” which stated:
“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.”
In June 1968, another bill was passed making another change to the Veterans Day format. The bill called the Uniform Holiday Bill was put in place to provide three-day weekends for federal employees.
The bill changed the date on four national holidays so they would all occur on Monday. Days affected were: Washington’s birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day.
In order to implement the change, Veterans Day was moved to the last Monday of October; however, many states refused to comply with the new arrangement and continued to observe the Nov. 11 date instead. The change was met with confusion and disorder.
Finally, on September 20, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed a law returning the observance of Veterans Day to the original Nov. 11 date. Ford’s law went into effect three years later, in 1978.
Today, Veterans Day is observed on Nov. 11, and every year precisely at 11:00 a.m., the Veterans Day National Ceremony commences at Arlington National Cemetery and a wreath is placed on the Tomb of the Unknowns. During the ceremony, a parade of colors is presented by veterans and a few dignitaries make comments, but primarily the event serves to honor our veterans and all who serve in the Armed Forces. It is a show of appreciation that many communities across the U.S. follow as well, with their local tributes also beginning at the 11 a.m. hour.
As a nation, war has been an ever present factor in the development of our country, and the numbers are staggering.
In cemeteries, such as Arlington National Cemetery, it is sobering to view the precise lines and identical rows of white crosses assembled on cemetery grounds. The sheer number of graves is overwhelming and stirs emotions.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. is also equally moving with it’s seemingly endless list of names.
In fact, the totals and statistics provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, D.C. show the extraordinary numbers –– and the many who have served and died for our country.
American Revolution (1775-1783)
U.S. Servicemembers 217,000
Battle Deaths 4,435
Non-mortal woundings 6,188
War of 1812 (1812-1815)
U.S. Servicemembers 286,730
Battle Deaths 2,260
Non-mortal woundings 4,505
Indian Wars (approx. 1817-1898)
U.S. Servicemembers 106,000
Battle Deaths 1,000
Mexican War (1846-1848)
U.S. Servicemembers 78,718
Battle Deaths 1,733
Other Deaths 11,550
Non-mortal woundings 4,152
Civil War (1861-1865)
U.S. Union members 2,213,363
Union battle deaths 140,414
Other deaths 224,097
Non-mortal woundings 281,881
U.S. Confederate 1,050,000
Conf. battle deaths 74,524
Other deaths 59,297
Non-mortal woundings unknown
Spanish-American War (1898-1902)
U.S. Servicemembers 306,760
Battle deaths 385
Other deaths 2,061
Non-mortal woundings 1,662
World War I (1917-1918)
U.S. Service members 4,734,991
Battle deaths 53,402
Other Deaths 63,114
Non-mortal woundings 204,002
Living Veterans 0
World War II (1941-1945)
Battle Deaths 291,557
Other Deaths 113,842
Non-mortal woundings 670,846
Living veterans 2,079,000
In Theater 1,789,000
Battle Deaths 33,739
Other Deaths 20,507
Non-mortal woundings 103,284
Living veterans 2,507,000
Korean War (1950-1953)
Total Serving 1,789,000
Battle Deaths 33,739
Other Deaths 20,507
Non-mortal woundings 103,284
Living veterans 2,507,000
Vietnam War (1964-1975)
Deployed to SE Asia 3,403,000
Battle Deaths 47,434
Other Deaths 42,786
Non-mortal woundings 153,303
Living veterans 7,569,000
Desert Shield/Desert Storm
Deployed to Gulf 694,550
Battle Deaths 148
Other Deaths 1,800
Non-mortal woundings 467
Living veterans 2,246,002
America’s Wars Total (1775-1991)
U.S. Military Service
During Wartime 41,892,128
Battle Deaths 651,031
Other Deaths 539,079
Non-mortal woundings 1,431,290
Living War Veterans 23,442,000
These numbers convey the story, passionately and truthfully.
President John F. Kennedy once said, “Let every nation know whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay the price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Throughout history United States Armed Forces have served our country well, and with honor and dignity. Today our military forces continue to lead the way as they carry-on with strength and continue to personify the three impactful words spoken by General Douglas MacArthur, who said, “Americans never quit.”
History reveals how difficult it is to uphold freedom’s path, and the depth of sacrifice that accompanies our freedoms and liberty.
So, wherever you are on Veterans Day, please take a moment to reflect upon the many heartaches associated with war, and remember those who serve. Make time to offer a special thought and prayer for our military men and women who stand in harm’s way for our sake – they keep our country strong and free.
Remember to express thanks and pay homage to our veterans, for they are our true bona fide heroes –– without a doubt.
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News Editor Note: Over the next few weeks the Herald will honor local veterans in the Reflections column. We will pay tribute to each veteran, living or deceased, with a brief summary of military service information, and a memorable story about their service to our country.
Please provide information about veterans in your family, a neighbor, or someone in your circle of friends.
Information may be dropped off at the Herald office, 302 East Washington Ave., Ava, Mo. or for more information, please call (417) 683-4181 and ask for Mindy or Sue.