There is a difference......
By David Gillis
Thumbprint News, Clay Township, Columnist
Before the worship began, the pastor stepped to the church’s pulpit and asked as he did in previous years that all military veterans stand to be recognized for their service to the country. He said, “We are grateful for your service,” as members of the congregation applauded. What a great gesture. right? Not quite. You see, it was Memorial Day, a time designated to remember those who gave their lives protecting our freedoms.
Now, before someone suggests that I’m picking on the clergy, please understand that this same mistake is made by government officials at the highest level, by well-educated university administrators, by newspaper journalists, and by television news commentators every year. What makes it even more concerning and unfortunately, less respectful is that the actual Veterans Day is often forgotten.
Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in armed conflict.
Veterans Day is actually a time set aside to honor all those who served honorably in the military, whether in times of war or peace. In reality, Veterans Day is substantially intended to thank living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to national security are appreciated, and to underscore the sacrifices of all those who considered it their duty to serve.
Veterans Day is always officially observed on November 11, regardless of the day of the week on which it occurs. When Veterans Day falls on a weekday, a diminishing number of communities have chosen to conduct recognition events on the weekend before or after November 11. Sadly, however, throughout the country, Veterans Day is simply overlooked, except for retail businesses that use the holiday name as an advertising gimmick to promote another sale. Sometimes that may be the only mention of Veterans Day offered to the public by the media.
In most school textbooks today there is mention of the Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended “The Great War”, or as we know it, World War I. You probably won’t discover much attention given to the fact that fighting actually ceased seven months before the June 1919 treaty signing. With greater difficulty, your history book search will probably not find that a temporary cessation of hostilities or armistice between Germany and the nations of the Allied Forces actually went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of what was known then as “The War to End All Wars”.
Five months following the execution of the treaty, in November, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of “Armistice Day”. He said in his pronouncement, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…” In the subsequent recognition by the United States Congress, the original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades, public meetings, and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.
Until the mid-1950’s, Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I. However, in 1954, following our history’s greatest mobilization of military resources as witnessed in World War II and the hard fought aggression in Korea, veterans’ service organizations urged Congress to amend its original action by striking out the word “Armistice” and replacing it with “Veterans”. From that time until now, November 11 has been the day to honor all American veterans.
Now, for those who read my column and are thinking that I may have focused on this subject before, thank you for remembering. Yes, I concentrated on Veterans Day in the past, and, will do so again in the future.
I can recall a time in elementary school when Veterans Day was recognized. In fact, I can remember when it was still Armistice Day. I think back to a time when we actually had community events honoring veterans on Veterans Day. My recollection, too, is of politicians who actually knew the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Until we return to that form of respectful recognition, I’ll keep writing about those who served us well. I am grateful that the editor of Thumbprint News allows me this annual opportunity to salute my fellow soldier, sailor, airman and Marine veterans. I thank you comrades, for your service.
Thumbprint News, Clay Township, Columnist
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