It began nearly 100 years ago as the day commemorating the temporary cessation – an armistice – of hostilities between the Allies and Germany at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. This cessation was made official in 1919 when the Treaty of Versailles was signed. World War I was officially over.
In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day with these 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.”
It became a legal Federal holiday in 1938 and was renamed “Veterans Day” in 1954.
I’ve not served myself but, like all of us, I know many who have. With gratitude, here are five of them:
- My father, Donald Torres, was born in 1936 – a 1st generation Spanish American who wanted to do his civic duty. He enlisted and served 4 years in the Army, spending most of it stationed in Germany. It was the mid-1950s; the Korean War had recently ended.
- Al Swindon, my grandfather, was also in the Army. He was sent to the front lines of the Korean War (1950-1953) and survived. He’s in his late 80s now.
- My step-dad was 19 years old when he was drafted and sent to Vietnam. It was 1967. He was one of three survivors from his platoon. After healing from his injuries, he was sent back to the front lines. Rick Antonio survived that tour, too.
- In August 1990, Operation Desert Storm happened. It was a 6-month war with very few American casualties. My cousin, First Lieutenant Joseph Maks, was one of them. He was a nurse and co-pilot of a medical-evacuation unit. His Blackhawk went down while carrying two wounded to safety. There were no survivors.
- My husband’s grandfather was born in 1900. A Spanish-Filipino immigrant, Daniel Bulebar signed up to serve his new country. It was 1914. (Do the math on his age.) He fought in WWI and WWII. Often on horseback.
They and countless other men and women are worthy of every reverence and courtesy we can muster.
And so today, with each parade and gathering and celebration and contemplation, each waving flag and funeral wreath, we honor our veterans for their valor, their service, and their sacrifice.
“Thank you for your service” image by Ines Hegedus-Garcia, used under Creative Commons license.
“Thank You Veterans” image by Elias Friedman, used under Creative Commons license.