“When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep?”

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, World War I ended. This day became known as “Armistice Day.” In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Similarly, unknown soldiers had been buried in England at Westminster Abbey and at France at the Arc de Triomphe. All of these memorials took place on November 11th to commemorate the end of the “war to end all wars.”

In 1926, Congress resolved to officially call November 11th Armistice Day. Then in 1938, the day was named a national holiday. Soon afterwords war broke out in Europe and World War II began.

Soon after the end of World War II, a veteran of that war named Raymond Weeks organized “National Veterans Day” with a parade and festivities to honor all veterans. He chose to hold this on Armistice Day. Thus began annual observances of a day to honor all veterans not just the end of World War I. In 1954, Congress officially passed and President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veteran’s Day. Due to his part in the creation of this national holiday, Raymond Weeks received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Reagan in November 1982.

In 1968, Congress changed the national commemoration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. However, the significance of November 11 was such that the changed date never really got established. In 1978, Congress returned the observance of Veterans Day to its traditional date.

On Memorial Day, 1958, two unidentified soldiers were interred at Arlington National Cemetery having died in World War II and the Korean War. In 1984, an unknown soldier who died in the Vietnam War was placed next to the others; however, this last soldier was later exhumed, and he was identified as Air Force 1st Lieutenant Michael Joseph Blassie. His body was removed.

The unknown soldiers are symbolic of all Americans who gave their lives in all wars. To honor them, an Army honor guard keeps day and night vigil.

National ceremonies commemorating Veterans Day occur each year at the the memorial amphitheater built around the Tomb of the Unknowns. At 11 AM on November 11, a color guard representing all military services executes “Present Arms” at the tomb. Then the presidential wreath is laid upon the tomb. Finally, the bugler plays taps.

Each Veterans Day should be a time when Americans stop and remember the brave men and women who have risked their lives for the United States of America. As Dwight Eisenhower said, “…it is well for us to pause, to acknowledge our debt to those who paid so large a share of freedom’s price. As we stand here in grateful remembrance of the veterans’ contributions we renew our conviction of individual responsibility to live in ways that support the eternal truths upon which our Nation is founded, and from which flows all its strength and all its greatness.”

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4 Comments on ““When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep?””

  1. Hedley Says:

    It’s Poppy Day

    What might have been is an abstraction
    Remaining a perpetual possibility
    Only in a world of speculation.
    What might have been and what has been
    Point to one end, which is always present.
    Footfalls echo in the memory
    Down the passage which we did not take
    Towards the door we never opened
    Into the rose-garden.

  2. flyboybob Says:

    Although Veterans Day is a time to pause and reflect on the men and woman who gave their lives for our freedom, we should always remember that we are still fighting wars today. World War I and II were not the wars to end all wars but just the prelude to the Korean, Vietnam, Iran and Afghanistan conflicts.

    In our lifetimes we have known very few years of peace. I find it sad that in World War I we called soldiers “shell shocked” who suffered from the mental trauma of battle. In World War II we called it “battle fatigue” which doesn’t sound as bad. General George Patton even slapped a soldier and called him a coward who was “battle fatigued”. In the Vietnam War era we called it “post traumatic stress disorder” which makes the horror of war much more scientific and sterile. The Koran war wasn’t even called a war, it was called a police action. With each successive war since the Vietnam war the government has edited press coverage of wars to keep the public from seeing the true horrors of war. Public opinion turned against the Vietnam war and the military by allowing the press to bring the horrors of battle into our living rooms nightly. The military industrial complex learned its lessons well and started censoring the press with the invasion of Grenada by President Reagan as they do to this day in Afghanistan.


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