As a Vietnam combat veteran, this day has had special significance to me since I lost several of my buddies over there in the rice paddies of the Mekong Delta. I often think of Allan Cameron Benson and the young widow that he left behind. You see, he and I were married on the exact same day and ended up in the same place on the exact same day. The difference was that he lost his life to a mortar round that landed almost directly on the center of one of our 105 MM howitzers in our Fire Support Base Schroeder with the 9th. Infantry Division in the Delta. I survived by being in a bunker less than 10 feet away from that exact spot where Benson lost his life. By the time I ran out there, he was already gone. In fact it took out the whole gun crew, none of which, we ever saw in the field again after they were medi-vac’ed from the FSB to the Hospital in Dong Tam.
The actual day to remember not only our fallen heros, but also those of us who made it back alive, is called Veterans Day. Not just war heros are honored on this day, but all Veterans that served our country both in war time and peace time.
A little history of Veterans' Day shows that November 11th is actually the anniversary of the Armistice, which was signed in the Forest of Compiegne by the Allies and the Germans in 1918, ending World War I, after four years of conflict.
At 5 A.M. on Monday, November 11, 1918 the Germans signed the Armistice, an order was issued for all firing to cease; so the hostilities of the First World War ended. This day began with the laying down of arms, blowing of whistles, impromptu parades, closing of places of business. All over the globe there were many demonstrations; no doubt the world has never before witnessed such rejoicing.
In November of 1919, President Woodrow Wilson issued his Armistice Day proclamation. The last paragraph set the tone for future observances: 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 nation.
In 1927 Congress issued a resolution requesting President Calvin Coolidge to issue a proclamation calling upon officials to display the Flag of the United States on all government buildings on November 11, and inviting the people to observe the day in schools and churches... But it was not until 1938 that Congress passed a bill that each November 11 "shall be dedicated to the cause of world peace and... hereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day." That same year President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill making the day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia. For sixteen years the United States formally observed Armistice Day, with impressive ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the Chief Executive or his representative placed a wreath. (I have seen this ceremony several times and every time, I find it just as solemn as the first time I ever saw it.)
In many other communities, the American Legion was in charge of the observance, which included parades and religious services. At 11 A.M. all traffic stopped, in tribute to the dead, then volleys were fired and taps sounded.
But after World War II, there were many new veterans who had little or no association with World War I. The word, "armistice," means simply a truce; therefore as years passed, the significance of the name of this holiday changed because it no longer had the significance it did right after WW I. Leaders of Veterans' groups decided to try to correct this and make November 11 the time to honor all who had fought in various American wars, not just in World War I.
On November 11, 1953, in Emporia, Kansas, instead of an Armistice Day program, there was a Veterans' Day observance. Ed Rees, of Emporia, KS was so impressed that he introduced a bill into the House to change the name of the observance to Veterans' Day. After this passed, Mr. Rees wrote to all state governors and asked for their approval and cooperation in observing the changed holiday. Act of Congress changed the name to Veterans’ Day on May 24, 1954. In October of that year, President Eisenhower called on all citizens to observe the day by remembering the sacrifices of all those who fought so gallantly, and through rededication to the task of promoting an enduring peace. The President referred to the change of name to Veterans' Day in honor of the servicemen of all America's wars.
The first time someone actually recognized me publicly on this day was not until my oldest son and daughter in law took me out to lunch to celebrate the day several years ago. I told them at the time, that all these years since Vietnam, this is the first time that someone actually thanked me for my service. I could say, that the 60's and 70's were not good times to be a Vet, but then I think about the 55,000 of my brothers (like Benson) that gave their greatest sacrifice for the Love of OUR Country and I would say, NO ONE EVER THANKED THEM EITHER for making what turned out to be their ULTIMATE sacrifice.
In case you don't recognize this photo, it was one I took at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetary. The ceremony of "The Changing of the Guard" is such a humbling expierence, that I am a loss for words to even try to describe the feelings that I felt the first time I ever watched it. It is a true honor to all those that we have been lost in battle over the years. It is done with all of the reverence of that of a Military Funeral.
To all the soldiers in all the wars who have made the ultimate sacrifice, my prayers go out to you and to those loved ones and families that you left behind.
To all of the Veterans out there, let me say, "THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE TO OUR COUNTRY!"
To all of the Vietnam Vets out there, let me say, as only you know what I mean when I say, "Welcome Home Brother!"
~ LZ Blogger