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September 22, 2023

Commemorating Our Veterans

The ‘unifying gifts of their service’

Veterans Day occurs Nov. 11. Originally conceived as Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, the holiday name changed in 1954 to honor all American service personnel past and present. 

It was heartbreaking to journey up to the cemetery to photograph a flag and find tangled shreds at the Civil War memorial. In a way, the three flags pictured above reflect divisions in our country. Each is heartbreaking in its own way. 

Taking in the emotion of a small boy holding a tri-cornered folded flag denoting a serviceperson’s death and seeing Old Glory flying at half-mast in the background has its own heartbreak. And yet the flags on Veterans Day poignantly contrast heartbreak and division with symbols of unity and shared history—50 stars and 13 stripes.

On this holiday, honoring servicepersons, sacrificing in heroic ways and small, “steadfast guardians of American ideals, freedoms and history,” consider the unifying gifts of their service. Despite challenges, we walk, talk and live free. Let’s hope our leaders in this political season lead us viewing differences less than shared values, and we do our part to repair rent fabric. 

Fun Facts: There is no apostrophe before or after the “s” in Veterans Day, because the day does not belong to veterans; it acknowledges veterans. Between 1971 and 1977, Veterans Day was celebrated on a Monday in accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act passed in 1968.

In 1975, President Gerald Ford restored observance to its historically designated time. The armistice of WWI, “the war to end all wars,” failed. 

In the 1940s, Armistice Day was difficult to celebrate. A movement developed to celebrate Mayflower Day instead, since the compact was signed on Nov. 11, 1620. That effort failed. Nearby, Nov. 10 is the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps, formed by resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1775. Their motto:  Semper Fidelis—Always Faithful.

The Marines celebrate with a 96-hour liberty period, the extra time allowing recuperation. Consider honoring veterans at Rotary’s Friday morning free breakfast, 8-9am, Friday, Nov 11 at the Villa Chanticleer Annex, and attend ceremonies at the Plaza afterwards.


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