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On Veteran's Day

In America, today is Veteran’s Day. President Wilson chose this day purposefully. While the Treaty of Versailles that officially ended World War I on June 28, 1919, an armistice began on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Wilson said: "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…" No one thought then that any war could reach the level of destruction caused in the “War to End All Wars.” Everyone in the world wanted peace.

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." On October 8, 1938, President Eisenhower said this: "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."

In 1954, after World War II and Korea, the 83rd Congress changed the name of Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day, ensuring that not only the veterans of World Was I but the veterans of all wars would be honored together.

There was a brief time when the actual date of Veteran’s Day moved around – on June 28, 1968 the Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) passed. It was designed to set Veteran’s Day by day of the week, not Armistice Day. This was thought to be beneficial, as it meant formal, Federalized three-day weekends for families to get together and celebrate their veterans. President Ford changed Veteran’s Day back to November 11 via Public Law 94097 (89 Stat. 479), which he signed on September 20th, 1975. After 1978, Veteran’s Day has been celebrated on November 11, regardless of what day of the week it falls on.

I come from a long line of veterans. We have record of at least one Osseau who battled in the Civil War. My great-grandfather, George Stock, was among the first Americans to go into the trenches in World War I. My grandfather Leon Lafaille stayed stateside, training Air Force pilots during World War II. His brother, my great-uncle Mervyn Lafaille, was a combat pilot in the Pacific Theater and survived 25 missions, even after being shot down a few times, and was a prisoner of war at one point. My father, Gary Lowery, did two tours of duty in Vietnam on LST-1169, the USS Whitfield County. My Uncle Jerry Lowery, my Aunt Lori-Ann Warring, and my Dad were in the Air Force, Navy Reserve, and Navy, respectively; in the late 1970’s-mid-1980’s my Dad went back as a Navy Reservist – as he put it: “they called and said they needed me.” My cousin Jerry Lowery, Jr. is career Air Force, and my brother, Leon Lowery, stands in the Air Force Reserve.

Today, I remember them and honor them. The Veterans I know, family, friends, and loved ones alike have, as a friend put it, “at one point or another, written a blank check to the United States Government, knowing the cost could be their lives.” So have all Veterans of war. Today I remember them all.

Last year, when I sent my annual letter out to the Veterans I know and love, my grandfather Lafaille said: “I hope that one day we won’t need to celebrate this holiday anymore, because war will be extinct.”

That’s about the best wish I’ve heard in a long time.

So – to everyone reading this, to all you veterans of war, I say thank you. Thank you for writing that blank check. Thank you for being willing to have it cashed, in order to defend what we hold dear. To the families and friends of veterans who did have to cash that particular check, know that I share your sorrow, and remember those veterans who gave up their lives. Today’s the day to lift the horn, speak the names and the memories of the veterans into the Well of Wyrd, and keep their stories alive. It’s a day to set out an extra plate, so those who fell in war can sup at your table in warmth and welcome. Today is the day to remember each Armistice that has come after the “Great War,” to hope we’ll see a few more, very soon, and to wish that someday they’ll be a thing of the past. It’s a day of reflection, and a day of remembrance.

It’s a day of gratitude.

I thank you, veterans, all.



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Apr. 15th, 2011 01:44 pm (UTC)
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