Today, Nov. 11, Veterans Day, we remember and give thanks to all who served in the armed forces of the United States. But veterans deserve our thanks every day of the year as do those still serving in the military.
The holiday is based on recognition and tribute — not only, like Memorial Day, to those who gave their lives in military service to our country, but also to all of those who have served, and to those who continue to serve today. Veterans Day has its origin in the end of World War I, when the armistice was signed at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
Armistice Day became a national holiday in 1921 when an unknown American soldier from World War I was buried in Arlington National Cemetery to honor all veterans of that terrible conflict. President Warren Harding requested that: “All ... citizens ... indulge in a period of silent thanks to God for these ... valorous lives and of supplication for His Divine mercy ... on our beloved country.” Inscribed on the Tomb of the Unknowns are the words: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”
In 1954, Congress, wanting to recognize the sacrifice of veterans since the Great War, proposed to change Armistice Day to Veterans Day. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, former supreme commander in Europe during World War II, signed the legislation.
Veterans Day is an American holiday that we “commemorate” more than “celebrate.” It is a day for thoughtful reflection on the sacrifices veterans have made — and continue to make — to protect our nation and way of life.
Our local communities will be honoring veterans with parades and special events.
In Andover, two new memorials will be dedicated today at the Spring Grove Cemetery. The memorials will mark two lots at the cemetery, one for current veterans and one for those of the future.
The names of the monuments are the “Twentieth-Century Veterans Memorial” for the current lot and “Veterans Memorial at Spring Grove” for the new lot.
“All gave some, some gave all,” part of the 20th Century memorials reads. “Let them not be forgotten.”
In Lawrence, a pancake breakfast will be held, while in Haverhill and North Andover, parades are planned.
The last American veteran of World War I, the conflict that gave rise to Veterans Day, died just last year. Frank Buckles of West Virginia was only 16 when he lied his way into the Army in 1917. He drove an ambulance on the Western Front. He died in February, 2011, at the age of 110.
Now, the veterans of World War II are fading fast. The youngest enlistees of 1945 would be 85 today. Veterans of Korea and Vietnam are aging. And new veterans of Afghanistan, Iraq and Middle Eastern conflicts are swelling the ranks.
It is our solemn duty as Americans to respect, care for, and honor them all.