Sunday, November 11, 2012

How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate

our heroes and she-roes! " ~Maya Angelou

Today is November 11 which happens to be the official Veterans Day.  It dates back to WWI…the war that was supposed to end all wars~little did they know that war was not a passing fancy.   Even though the Treaty of Versailles was signed in June of 1919, the armistice went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, and so that date has been the marker.
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "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…"
 
The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:
Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and
Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and
Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples. 
 
Sadly, Armistice Day was not the last of guns and bombs, and so President Eisenhower had to modify the name to Veterans Day.  Even sadder, the date is celebrated more with sales than "thanksgiving" as the original proclamation declared.  But then, every holiday per se has become a buy it now/sales/credit free-for-all.

My memory of Veterans Day goes back to my 7th grade history teacher who made us memorize “In Flanders Fields”. The use of the poppy as a symbol for Veterans Day is directly related to that poem. Its opening lines refer to the many poppies that were the first flowers to grow in the churned-up earth of soldiers' graves in Flanders, a region of Europe that overlies parts of Belgium and France. The poem was written by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae in May 1915 after witnessing the death of his friend, a fellow soldier. The poem was first published on 8 December 1915 in the London-based magazine Punch.  I leave you with those words...
"In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields."

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