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November 16, 2011

Celebrating Veterans Day and “A Call to Arms”

Kevin E. Dayhoff

This year Veterans Day fell on a Friday and many enjoyed a three-day weekend – shopping, doing chores around the house or spending time with friends and family, luxuries all paid for by an American man or woman in uniform.


Last Friday, the American Legion Carroll Post 31 held a ceremony at the Westminster Recreation Center, better known by old-Carroll Countians as the location of the former armory, in the center of town. The old armory simply exudes history and tradition, and it is only fitting and proper that the ceremonies take place there.


In addition, as is tradition, the city of Westminster recreation staff and street department employees work hard, on a federal holiday, to make sure the ceremonies go on without a hitch.


Although more research is needed to determine if the ceremonies have always taken place in that stately stone building, it is known from multiple accounts that the first recorded Veterans Day celebration took place there on November 11, 1918.


The legal holiday setting aside November 11 was first honored as Armistice Day in 1918 to commemorate the end of World War I – The Great War, the War to End All Wars, as it was known to previous generations.


World War I actually ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.


On May 26, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed HR7786 to formally change the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.


Of course, Congress in its infinite wisdom, decided in 1968 to make the holiday fall on the last Monday of October beginning with October 25, 1971.


Those of us who are old enough to remember those years, recall insisting on celebrating our veterans on November 11 anyway. Fortunately, on September 30, 1975, the annual observance was restored, beginning in 1978.


According to research for the Historical Society of Carroll County by historian Jay Graybeal: “The first Armistice Day was selected as the topic for the Historical Society of Carroll County's annual dinner meeting held, appropriately enough, on November 11, 1954. Board members, or their representatives, from each county election district were asked to share their recollections of that memorable day.”


Mr. Graybeal wrote, that Mrs. Edgar Pickett, from the Franklin District of Carroll County recalled:


“We in Franklin District received the word about 5 in the afternoon that the War was over, and what a wonderful message that was. We had at the time 23 lovely young boys in the service and 5 of them were from our little village of Winfield.


“Mr. A. J. Stem had a new truck so he said gather up a crowd and we would all go out to the Armory in Westminster where they were holding a celebration; of course as you know that was a horse and buggy day. Not so many people had cars and trucks and – looking back – the speed was about 25 miles per hour and one felt they were almost flying.


“Upon arriving in Westminster everyone was on the street, it seemed, and there was an over flowing crowd at the Armory…


“I shall never forget it. I am so glad we changed the name of November 11 to Veterans Day, because we have an awareness of our debt to all veterans of World Wars I and II and we want to honor these men also on November 11 and trust in God there will be no more World Wars in the future.”


Last Friday, the keynote speaker at the Westminster Veterans Day ceremonies, 1st Sergeant James Saunders, was equally eloquent.


Sgt. Saunders, of the 29th Military Police Company, Maryland Army National Guard, served our country in Operation Desert Storm, 1990-1991, Operation Noble Eagle, 2001-2002, Afghanistan in 2003-2004 and Iraq from 2007 to 2008.


Since he enlisted September 4, 1989, right after graduating from high school, he has received 29 military awards and decorations. His first duty assignment took him to Fort Bragg, NC, where for eight years he served under the Special Operations Command.


He enlisted in the Maryland Army National Guard after his active duty service and has continued to serve our nation as a Baltimore County Police officer, where he has received eight awards over the years.


He began his address last Friday by saying that “it’s a privilege and honor for me to be here today…”


Ah, excuse me, but I think that the “privilege and honor” was all mine to have had the opportunity to be in the company of such a fine young man.


It was easy to agree with him when he said: “I can think of no better place – I, as a soldier, American citizen, and as a fellow veteran would rather be, than here today … recognizing those who have served and continue to serve in our Armed Forces.”


That said, I have come to believe that the best way Americans can honor – and thank - our nation’s veterans is by giving them a job. Donna Miles recently wrote an article in the Department of Defense American Forces Press Service that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki “noted that 850,000 veterans are unemployed. For veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, the unemployment rate is 12.1 percent – three percent above the national average.”


That is about double the current 6.2 percent unemployment rate in Carroll and Frederick counties.


Redoubling our efforts to hire veterans in a slow economy is a tall order.


Also remember that while you enjoyed the three-day weekend, some of our neighbors were fighting for their lives in some far-off land, for the lifestyles we take for granted. Don’t take them for granted.


For us, who have benefited so greatly from the service and sacrifice of veterans, giving a vet a job is worth fighting for…


. . . . .I’m just saying…


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