Veterans Day time to honor those who served
In the course of doing my job, I have had the distinct privilege of meeting a number of veterans. Each one has a different story to tell, yet each one is connected through service to this country. No matter which branch of service or when the call of duty took place, these men and women are deserving of our gratitude on this day.
Just this year, I’ve talked with veterans from World War II, Desert Storm, Afghanistan. They faced an enemy and lived to tell about it — one still carrying shrapnel in his body, deposited there in 1944 in Metz, France; another, disabled due to the conditions under which she served in the Middle East in 1990; the third, learning to survive and thrive after leaving a leg in Afghanistan last year.
Saying thanks is the least we can do.
I checked the United States Department of Veteran Affairs website at http://www1.va.gov .asp to learn about the history of Veterans Day, which began as Armistice Day. Here is what I found:
“World War I — known at the time as ‘The Great War’ — officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of ‘the war to end all wars.’
“In Nov. 1919, President (Woodrow) Wilson proclaimed Nov. 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 a.m.”
The website includes photographs from our nation’s history, as well. One in particular is very striking: The cutline reads, “Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse, in France, wait for the end of hostilities. This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on Nov. 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect.”
Nov. 11 was designated as a legal holiday each year by an act approved on May 13, 1938, “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’ Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word ‘Armistice’ and inserting in its place the word ‘Veterans.’ With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, Nov. 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.”
The Blount County Historical Museum will be open from noon to 6 p.m. today in honor of our local veterans. To learn more about the history of our county, state and nation, and about the contributions of our veterans, make a visit to the museum, 1006 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Maryville, in the old Health Department building near the Blount County Justice Center. Admission is always free.
Linda Albert is Sunday Life editor and a staff writer for The Daily Times. Her column runs every Sunday in the Life section. You may contact her at 981-1168 or (firstname.lastname@example.org)