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On Veterans Day we honor all who served the cause of freedom

  Related material:  Honoring our Veterans    

2005 Veterans Day poster. (Veterans Day Poster Gallery)
In 1918, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month, after four years of bitter war, a cease-fire agreement known as 'Armistice' was signed at Rethondes, France bringing World War I to a close. The "war to end all wars" was over. More than 10 million lives had been lost forever.

In hailing the end of war, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed:

"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."

In 1938, a United States Congressional Act made November 11th a federal holiday. The Act declared it "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace". The Act was amended in 1954 to rename the holiday to 'Veterans Day', so that all veterans could be honored.

Veterans Day honors men and women who have served in the armed services. The day has different names in different countries, but its purpose is the same everywhere it is observed. Great Britain celebrates November 11th as Armistice Day, it is not a national holiday but special observances celebrate the armistice that ended World War I. France also calls it Armistice Day. In Canada it is a national holiday called Remembrance Day. Whether called Armistice Day, Remembrance Day or Veterans Day, it remains a time to recognize those who fought and to renew our commitment to peace.

Veterans Day celebrations in the United States include parades and speeches. Special services are held at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, they begin with 2 minutes of silence, then after the playing of taps, a wreath is placed at the tomb which houses the graves of 3 unknown Americans who fought in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. In a ceremony in Washington, D.C., a wreath is placed at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to honor those who died in the Vietnam War.

Flags today in tribute wave
For those loyal ones who gave
Of their youth, their hopes, their might
For a cause they knew was right.

Morning bells sound their call,
Pause and say a prayer for all--
All who served valiantly
That men might be ever free.

Toll of bells, drums' slow beat--
Silence falls in every street.
In each heart swells the plea:
Keep us safe, but keep us free!

Kate Englehardt Clark

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the Gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the mornings hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight,
I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.

Author Unknown

On Veterans Day and Memorial Day, support groups such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars raise funds for their charitable activities by selling paper poppies made by disabled veterans. This bright red wildflower became a symbol of World War I after a bloody battle in a field of poppies called Flanders Field in Belgium.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lt. Col. John McCrae, MD
Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps
Spring 1915

We often take for granted our current way of life, our freedom to participate in cultural and political events, and our right to live under a government of our choice.

In remembering those who went off to war in distant lands when such rights and freedoms were being threatened, in honoring their service and their sacrifice, we recognize the tradition of freedom they fought to preserve. These men and women had faith in the future and by their acts gave us the will to preserve peace for all time. On Veterans Day, we acknowledge the courage and gallantry of those who served the cause of freedom.

For more information about Veterans Day, please visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website.


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