“My family is going to go to Gettysburg on Veterans Day. What’s Veterans Day?” The words come from a little sandy-haired child as I was leaving an elementary school in Westminster after giving a talk to two third grade classes on “Living in Carroll County.”
I was already running late for my next appointment. I immediately decided that I was not going to arrive at my next appointment on time and “dropped everything” to talk with him about Gettysburg and Veteran’s Day.
I haven’t a clue as to why he asked the question. Who knows why children say what they say, or ask the questions they ask.
During my talk I had mentioned that “Corbitt’s Charge” took place in Westminster several days before the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. It was only a passing reference with hardly any emphasis. All I know is that this boy has special parents and his question was a heaven sent opportunity to talk with a young child about the value of Veterans Day.
Today is Veterans Day. Many will have the day off. Hopefully you will spend the day as wisely as this boy’s family and set aside some family time to reflect upon the meaning of the day.
Veterans Day is a day of commemoration and honor set aside so that we may celebrate the freedoms that we enjoy and the preservation of American values made possible by dedication and sacrifice of United States’ citizen-soldiers.
A number of years ago I found an excellent short explanation of the origins of “Veterans Day,” written by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I have retyped it below, unedited and in its entirety. The VFW emphasized that permission was given to reprint the information.
The best way to honor those who made the supreme sacrifice is by educating the next generation regarding the history and value of Veterans Day. Perhaps you might find time at the dinner table this evening to read through it with your family.
Happy Veterans Day. For all our readers who are veterans, please accept a grateful nation’s heartfelt gratitude for your service to preserve our American values – so that we may have the freedom to have a website such as The Tentacle, to exercise our hard earned freedom of speech. Let us never forget that the opportunity to express our opinions came as a result of incredible dedication and sacrifice. God Bless.
“In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. This site, on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River and the City of Washington, became the focal point of reverence for America’s veterans.
“Similar ceremonies occurred earlier in England and France, where an unknown soldier was buried in each nation’s highest place of honor (in England, Westminster Abbey; in France, the Arc de Triomphe). These memorial gestures all took place on November 11, giving universal recognition to the celebrated ending of World War I fighting at 11 a.m., November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). The day became known as ‘Armistice Day.’
“Armistice Day officially received its name in America in 1926 through a congressional resolution. It became a national holiday 12 years later by similar congressional action. If the idealistic hope had been realized that World War I was “the War to end all Wars,” November 11 might still be called Armistice Day. But only a few years after the holiday was proclaimed, war broke out in Europe. Sixteen-and-one-half million Americans took part. Four hundred seven thousand of them died in service, more than 292,000 in battle.
“Realizing that peace was equally preserved by veterans of WWII and Korea, Congress was requested to make this day an occasion to honor those who have served America in all wars. In 1954 President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day.
“On Memorial Day 1958, two more unidentified American war dead were brought from oversees and interred in the plaza beside the unknown soldier of World War I. One was killed in World War II, the other in the Korean War. In 1973, a law passed providing interment of an unknown American from the Vietnam War, but none was found for several years. In 1984, an unknown serviceman from that conflict was placed alongside the others. To honor these men, symbolic of all Americans who gave their lives in all wars, an Army honor guard, The 3d U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard), keeps day and night vigil.
“A law passed in 1968 changed the national commemoration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. It soon became apparent, however, that November 11 was a date of historic significance to many Americans. Therefore, in 1978 Congress returned the observance to its traditional date.”
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org