The recent tragic events at Fort Hood here in Texas, should remind us once again of the sacrifices veterans have made, and continue to make, in both the defense of our nation and in the support of the freedoms we enjoy.
Soon after the end of World War I, the so-called “War to End All Wars,” nations who had participated in the bloody conflict, began observing the specific day and time the armistice was signed, November 11, 1918, at 11:00 in the morning. In the United States, “Armistice Day,” was officially recognized as a national holiday, and was initially only a remembrance of the end of World War I and the veterans of that war.
In 1954, the national holiday was officially changed to “Veterans Day,” a change no doubt made to recognize the large numbers of new veterans who had served during World War II and the Korean War. Later, for a relatively brief period of time, the holiday was moved to the fourth Monday in October, in order to give those who get the day off a three day weekend. Common sense finally prevailed, and the day of national recognition was moved back to November 11th of every year.
Since the very first “Armistice Day” was recognized, the numbers of veterans have increased in every generation. After World War II, came the veterans of the “Cold War,” Korea, Vietnam and Southeast Asia, El Salvador, Grenada, Panama, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq. And these are just the “major” conflicts since World War II. This list does not take into account all the smaller conflicts or the many other peacetime veterans serving faithfully in assignments in the United States or more distant places around the world. Nor, does the list take into account the veterans of the numerous conflicts prior to World War I.
Wherever veterans served, whatever time period they served, or whatever job they performed in the service of our country, they all deserve our respect and gratitude for their service. Many Texas Hill Country towns have statues honoring veterans in the town square, and veteran celebrations will be held throughout the hill country, as they always are, on November 11th.
There are thousands of monuments and statues recognizing our veterans in large cities, small towns, and cemeteries across the nation. Many of these monuments show heroic veterans depicted in battle. As a citizen, veteran, and historian of this great country, I’ve greatly appreciated every veteran monument I’ve ever seen, and I'm inspired by every one of them.
The monument most moving to me, however, is located in the small hill country town of Jonestown, Texas. At Veterans Memorial Park, the monument does not highlight heroic battle scenes or dramatic flag raisings over a battle-scarred landscape, but rather the statue of a single serviceman, sitting alone with his duffle bag, waiting to go home upon the completion of military service to our nation. And, except for those brave veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, this is a monument which best reflects the average veteran who has served this country in either war or peace. The veteran left home, served our country, and then returned home. That’s something every living veteran can relate to.
The important veterans in my life are numerous. From my Dad, and his World War II generation, through the veterans of my generation, and now the veterans of more recent times, please remember them all on this Veterans Day. They are a relatively small group compared with the large population of our country, and they all deserve our respect for the many sacrifices they have made on our behalf.
On at least this one day of the year, please thank a veteran for his or her service. They will appreciate it, and you'll feel great after having done it.