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Reflections on Veterans Day

Veterans Day observations and festivities are taking place in thousands of cities and towns all over the USA. Many hold formal ceremonies, parades, and religious services to honor those who have served in our country’s Armed Forces. The Department of Defense has a website devoted to the celebration of Veterans Day, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also has a great Veterans Day page on their website devoted to Veterans Day activities and ceremonies. You can also download the official Veterans Day 2008 poster, and see all the posters that were created for previous years beginning with 1979. Our involvment in Iraq and Afganistan has created a greater public awareness and appreciation of military Veterans and their service to our country. I wonder how many civilians who engage in Veterans Day celebrations really know the origins of Veterans Day, and what it stands for?

The “Great War” of WW I ended on the 11th day of the 11th month, and during the 11th hour, at which the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. More than a million Americans crowded Broadway in New York, hurling ticker tape out of windows with shouting and dancing in the streets. It was the end of the “War to End All Wars”, and as Americans celebrated they were sure that the terrible death and destruction of the First World War would never happen again. However, after World War II ended the celebration of the Armistice of 11/11/1918 dwindled down to bare acknowledgement. It was only until the various Veterans groups during the early 1950’s urged the official re-dedication of Armistice Day as a tribute to all who had served in the Armed Forces in past wars. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill declaring that Armistice Day would thereafter be officially commemorated on November 11th as Veterans Day.

Throughout the decades since the corn flower, or red poppy as it is known, came to serve as a symbol of the Armistice. Soldiers returning home from the war told of the wild red poppies growing on otherwise barren landscapes. These flowers covered many of the battlefields of Europe where soldiers from around the world, and the United States, fell during WW I. Many of these battlefields became the final resting place of those fallen, thus the red poppy became a symbol of the war and of the Veterans who had given their lives for the cause. The crimson color of the poppy symbolized, in the minds of many, the blood of their fallen brothers-in-arms.

Countries that have lost service members in various conflicts around the globe honor their sacrifices in their own remembrances of the Armistice similar to our Veterans Day. Around Europe, Great Britain, Australia and Canada the red poppy is still the traditional and visual symbol of remembrance, and you will often see a red paper poppy pinned to their clothing in remembrance of their Veterans who laid down their lives in service to their country.

Today, the United States’ Armed Forces continue to confront and bring down enemy forces around the world in the Global War on Terrorism. U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen defend freedom in the line of duty whenever and wherever they are called. Our brave warfighters, both stateside and deployed overseas, deserve the highest honor and recognition for their service and sacrifices. Our country is forever indebted to our Veterans for their quiet courage and praiseworthy service. They answered a high calling to carry out and carry on, and have helped to guard the hard won and precious freedoms that Americans tend to take for granted.

As we move towards the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend, we as a nation have much to be enormously grateful for. Most of all let us not ever forget our fallen service men and women, and our wounded warrior Veterans who still need our help and support as many adjust mentally and physically back into civilian life. Veterans Day should continue to be an every day recognition and thankfulness for these Heroes of Freedom, and their unselfish valor and devotion to our country through their willing sacrifices. May God bless them all.

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