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

  1. olof1 Says:

    No such day or grave over here, too long since we participated an any war thankfully.

    Have a great day!

    • katry Says:

      This was started after World War I to honor the fallen. No one thought they’d be another then another then wars forever.

      This day now honors all who have served, and there have been too many opportunities for service, too many wars, too many deaths.

  2. Birgit Says:

    Sadly I can’t say that it’s too long since we participated in any war… We celebrate People’s Mourning Day next Sunday. It’s important to remember the past to learn for the future.
    Great songs today.

    • katry Says:

      I wish it were true that people have learned from the past. The same bad choices seem to be made over and over.

  3. Hedley Says:

    Jack walked down to the registration office on the day the war started and signed with the 1/19s or the St Pancras Regiment. Geoffrey was still 16 when he joined a London Rifle Corps.

    Jack was blown up on Vimy Ridge and spent a year in hospital but avoided the decimation of his regiment at the Somme. Geoffrey was gassed at Arras and was returned to Blighty.

    They were my Grandfathers. They left their innocence and their youth in the mud of Belgium and France.

    Last Thursday St John Fisher Chapel asked us to remember out loud our loved ones at the Service of Remembrance My Grandpa and Poppa. .

    • katry Says:

      My Dear hedley,
      My father graduated from high school at 16 and wanted to enlist but his mother wouldn’t sign the paper so the day he turned 17 down he went and enlisted in the navy. His ship made the supply run in the North Atlantic and was sunk. He and his captain held on to pieces of the boat. His captain kept asking my father to hold on to him as he was injured. My father was injured as well and passed iut. When he awoke, only he was left and was the only man rescued from his half of the ship. He was brought to England where they saved both his legs. He was there during the Battle of the Bulge and said they all thought the war was lost because of the numbers of injured. He was 17.

      • Hedley Says:

        Kat, I have no idea how they did it. The courage of these children is almost impossible to comprehend. As we have previously discussed, they never talked about it. The wonders of the internet allowed me to discover what happened.

        Interestingly, the National Archives in England holds two files for Jack. They were confused because he was born in Australia and returned to England as a babe in arms. The files contain totally different but complimentary information.

      • katry Says:

        My father was at a hospital in Plymouth for a long time. He couldn’t walk so he and a buddy would “borrow” bikes and roll down the hill to a pub. An ambulance would have to come and take them back.

        Being only 17, his parents were his last thought. They had to go to the Red Cross as they hadn’t heard from my father in weeks. The Red Cross found him.

        A family in Plymouth took my father in while he recuperated. My grandparents wrote to them for years.

        I only heard stories like these from my father.

  4. sprite Says:

    I love the British tradition of the entire nation — including tv and radio broadcasts — going silent for two minutes at 11 a.m. I can’t even imagine that happening here.

    • katry Says:

      I too think it is amazing. I don’t think it would happen here either. The number of cable stations would make it impossible, and I doubt all would agree to it.

      • Hedley Says:

        Sprite, way back when, at 11.00 everything would stop, the cars halted in the middle of the road and we all remembered.
        If you ever get the chance, see the remembrance service from the Royal Albert Hall, when the poppy petals cascade down on to the bare heads of those in the audience. One for every life lost in the Great War.
        When Charlie Gilmour violated the cenotaph with his antics, he insulted the memories of so many.
        As a child of the 50s, what happened in both wars was omnipresent.

  5. sprite Says:

    My grandfather only told the fun stories, too — of gambling on the boat home or of meeting my grandmother at a dance in England because all the enlisted men had sworn they weren’t going to let the officers dance with the local girls.

  6. Bob Says:

    Last week I was in Toronto Canada and they also call November 11th Remembrance Day. On Thursday night the Maple Leafs played the Devils in the Hockey Hall of fame game and all the dignitaries shown on the TV news wore poppies in their lapels. It’s a nice tradition. We who live in the western democracies owed much to the men and woman who sacrificed for the freedom we enjoy.

    My father was drafted in 1942 and served in the Military Police at Fort Dix New Jersey. He was medically discharged eighteen months later. His entire company were men who should have been classified 4F, not fit for military service, had it not been so close to Pearl Harbor.

    • katry Says:

      I always buy poppies from the vets selling them at the supermarket doors.

      This day always makes me mindful and thankful for the service of so many. I am glad the day is still so important. Many people were at the 3 day flag display at a local park. Each flag reflected someone who had served and many who also died.

      My brother did his boot at Fort Dix. He was drafted in 1968 but was one of the few from his company to be sent for advanced training having nothing to do with combat. He served his two years in Germany.

      My dad was just 17. He ended up with disabled vet status but refused to do anything with it.

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