Thoughts on Veteran’s Day 2012
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, November 11, 2012
This oath – and its variants which I have also taken – is one I have never, and shall never forswear:
“I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
That is a bond about which most will never know. I did so, because it is the good, just, right, honorable and proper thing to do. It still is, and always shall be.
Yes, I am a minority.
My paternal great grandfather emigrated from Ireland to the United States, and settled in Alabama, where he later enlisted in the Union Army at Corinth, Mississippi, during the Civil War. The extent of that horrific conflict still has effects upon our nation today. And, it remains – to date – the single most bloody and deadly war in which this nation has engaged. The estimates of deaths related to it approximate 750,000. All totaled, the casualties & deaths from all other wars & armed conflicts in which the United States participated, combined, do not come near that number.
His son – my grandfather – that I am aware of, never served in uniform. However, my father, and his two younger brothers all served, and the youngest made a career of military service. After service during the Korean War in the Navy, my father went to university on the G.I. Bill, and years later, re-enlisted in the Army National Guard, and then transitioned to the Air National Guard, from which he eventually retired. Though one of my dad’s brothers (my paternal uncle) is now deceased, I specifically recall a comment he made, which I shall never forget:
“If the United States government can spend $5 Million dollars for one bomb in Iraq,
they can spend $5 thousand on two hearing aids for me.”
I am the only son who has ever served. No other children of my father’s family have ever served.
On my mother’s side, both her younger brothers served for a period of time. Other than that, there is no other service of which I am aware.
My service was in peacetime, in the Reserve and National Guard. It was service, and it was voluntary – my choice, my deliberate decision – to do so.
Even before I entered high school, I was reading about war in Viet Nam. When I started high school, I was mentally preparing for a senior year summer graduation trip to Phnom Penh, Da Nang, or Saigon. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
That era significantly wounded our collective American conscious, and many mistreated our military service members. It’s little wonder that some fled to Canada not merely to avoid a draft, but to avoid the harsh and unwarranted criticisms and maltreatment of the service members themselves. And yet, it hurts even worse when one’s family – the American family – were the ones dishing out such venomous vitriol, specifically directing their attacks at those who served. Those men and women who served, were, after all, only obeying orders, having also sworn an oath similarly to the one posted above. In some regard, I suppose we now know what it feels like to “shoot the messenger,” or the piano player.
Obtaining the GI Bill – which President Obama expanded significantly (the single largest expansion of benefits since it’s inception), at the behest of service members, their families, certain Congress members, and others – which pays educational benefits to service members, was not a cake-walk. Nor was the matter of providing for their healthcare after their service, for service-related injuries – and for their family members’ healthcare.
Sadly, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen continue to be political punching bags, even after they swear oaths to obey. Even after they are willing to die – and do die – in battle. (I shudder to recall that the previous administration purposely hid the caskets of the returning bodies from public view, and never once greeted the return of their remains, nor attended their military funerals.) Even after they deny themselves. Even after they “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”
Since 1990, our nation has been engaged in some variant of armed military conflict in some of the most inhospitable areas of the world, in the deserts and rugged mountains of the Middle East. That’s well over 20 years of bloodshed, death and destruction.
It’s time to focus on mending our fences, tending our wounds and healing our nation.
It’s time to rebuild our nation.
It’s time for some peace.
So yes, it’s good, right, just and honorable to remember and honor those living – and those whom have given their lives in a cause of service.
History of Veterans Day
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 eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
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 November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 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 11:00 a.m.
The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with 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.
An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—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, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
Later that same year, on October 8th, 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.”
President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day. From left: Alvin J. King, Wayne Richards, Arthur J. Connell, John T. Nation, Edward Rees, Richard L. Trombla, Howard W. Watts
On that same day, President Eisenhower sent a letter to the Honorable Harvey V. Higley, Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), designating him as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee.
In 1958, the White House advised VA’s General Counsel that the 1954 designation of the VA Administrator as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee applied to all subsequent VA Administrators. Since March 1989 when VA was elevated to a cabinet level department, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has served as the committee’s chairman.
The Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.
The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.
Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.