Veterans’ Day 2015: The Least We Can Do

Veterans’ Day 2015: The Least We Can Do

2015 | Week of November 9 | #1123

America’s large cities and her small towns will this next Wednesday, November 11, take some time to recognize Veteran’s Day.  In parks, on city streets and bridges and on courthouse squares, many Americans will stand facing east, the direction from which our troops returned in World War I, and will observe a minute of silence out of respect for those who have died in the service of their country. It’s the least we can do.

Many communities will also have a parade.  Among those marching in these parades will be a few aging World War II and Korean vets, several now-graying Vietnam vets, and some middle-aged Desert Storm vets and some still young War on Terror vets.  Regardless of their ages, these men and women have an incredible bond:  they all donned a uniform in defense of our homeland, and many of them saw active conflict and placed themselves in harm’s way.

My dad was a World War II vet, but he never marched in a Veteran’s Day parade or in any way even acknowledged Veterans’ Day.  In fact, he never talked much about his World War II experiences; the memories were just too painful.  Dad was just a boy of 18, when he and thousands of other young American men headed to Europe on the converted cruise ship The Queen Mary.  They landed in December, 1944, right in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge.  The way Dad told it, by the time that battle was over, there were no more boys, regardless of their ages or backgrounds.  The ones who survived were now men.  They had met hate and death and fear face to face, for what must have seemed like an eternity.

That’s the kind of valor, that’s the kind of sacrifice veterans all across this country have made so that you and I can enjoy the freedoms we have today.  Freedom often exacts a high price, sometimes requiring the lifeblood of Americans who have been willing to stand where you and I can’t.

Giving national, as well as local, recognition to our veterans each November 11th, is altogether fitting and proper.  It’s the least we can do.

It was 11 a.m., November 11, 1918, when World War I was officially declared over with the signing of the armistice.  In 1926, Congress issued a resolution that gave November 11 the official name of “Armistice Day,” commemorating the soldiers who had fought in the “war to end all wars.”   By 1954, America had added World War II and the Korean War to her history, and President Eisenhower signed a bill that changed Armistice Day to Veterans’ Day to honor all those who have served America by serving in the military.

The national celebration of Veteran’s Day focuses on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where unknown soldiers from 3 wars are now laid to rest, with an empty crypt for the Vietnam War, since the soldier originally interred there was identified in 1998.  Each November 11, the Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry, or the Old Guard, which keeps a year-round 24 hour watch at the tomb, is part of a formal ceremony, complete with the placing of a presidential wreath and the playing of Taps.

For a number of years, the week including November 11 has been designated as “National Veterans Awareness Week.” The congressional resolution designating this special time encourages educational efforts directed at elementary and secondary school students concerning the contributions and sacrifices of veterans.

When this congressional resolution was originally passed in August 2001, one of the reasons for doing so was that at that time fewer families and individuals had a personal connection with the Armed Forces, largely because America now has an all-volunteer Armed Forces and at that time we were not engaged in war.  Of course, that changed dramatically post-September 2001.

Nevertheless, it is always right to make sure young people are keenly aware of the contributions made by those who have served in the military. As a part of that, I hope all Wisconsin schools, both public and private, will teach about this special day and will publicly honor veterans this week. It’s the least we can do.

For the rest of us, at this time when our country is at war and America’s young men and women remain on the front lines, it will be good for us to join our fellow citizens this week in a ceremony to honor our vets, past and present.  It’s the least we can do.

This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

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