By Tom Barrett
is Veterans Day. Since 911, and with the ensuing military actions in
Afghanistan and Iraq, much attention and appreciation has been focused
on those who serve in our military today. But Veterans Day is a time
when we remember ALL veterans, past and present. As one of our readers,
Calvin E. Johnson, Jr. wrote to me earlier this week, "America
must remember those who served our country! To forget is dishonor."
Veterans Day started as Armistice Day in 1938. At the end of the first
global conflict, World War I, Congress set aside November 11 as the
day when our nation would celebrate the end of that horrible war, and
honor those who had served and those who had fallen. Their Resolution
read, in part, "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
As I read the Resolution that authorized Armistice Day, I noted that
Congress wasn't very politically correct, at least in terms of today's
sensibilities. If the current justices of Ninth Federal Circuit Court
had been around then, you can be sure they would have had something
to say about its language. "Thanksgiving?" To whom was Congress
recommending that we offer thanksgiving. Allah? I don?t think so. These
men knew that without the intervention of Almighty God, we might all
be speaking German today.
And what about advising America to pray on this new holiday? What insensitive
men these must have been! Didn't they realize that a tiny percentage
of Americans in their day were atheists or agnostics? Didn't they stop
to think that the 99.9% of Americans who believed in God might make
the other .1% "uncomfortable"? That they might actually "offend"
someone by talking about prayer? Well, those were simpler days. The
Supreme Court had not yet invented a Constitutional prohibition against
making people "uncomfortable" (shudder), or (Heaven forbid)
In 1954, after America had suffered through World War II and the Korean
conflict, Veterans' organizations requested that the holiday be changed
to honor the veterans of all wars. Accordingly, Congress enacted the
law that changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
Government is incapable of leaving well enough alone, so in 1968 Veterans
Day, along with Washington's Birthday and other national holidays, fell
to the mania to create three-day weekends. Never mind that Washington
actually had a birthday, February 22 - NOT the third Monday of February.
Never mind that November 11 had historical, patriotic significance for
those who care about such things. Government employees needed their
three-day weekends. This state of affairs existed for seven years, until
the outcry from veterans organization and everyday Americans forced
Congress to return theobservance
of Veterans Day to November 11.
Why is that important? Well, as the website of the Department of Veterans
Affairs notes, "The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day
to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the
date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans
Day: a celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism,
love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common
good." In other words, honoring some of the best people this nation
has ever known is more important than having a long weekend at the beach.
When I was a boy Veterans Day was a solemn holiday. Churches, veterans'
organizations, schools and communities held ceremonies honoring those
who served and those who died defending our freedom. Old men squeezed
themselves into uniforms that were only brought out once a year for
this special day. Young men in uniform, including serving military and
Boy Scout troops, served as honor guards. Flowers were laid on the graves
of fallen warriors.
Today Veterans Day to most is just a day off. Ours is no longer a patriotic
nation. Our children don't know what a veteran is. They have not been
taught to honor those who served and died so that they could have freedom
of religion, freedom of speech, freedom from tyranny...freedom to live
in the greatest nation this world has ever known.
Whose fault is this? It has become fashionable in conservative circles
to blame the schools. "They don't teach our kids to be patriotic
any more!" Some blame the liberals. "The liberal judges are
taking away the Pledge of Allegiance from our schools." Well, those
of you who read my columns regularly know that I am no great fan of
the public school system, or of judges who ignore the Constitution.
But the real fault lies much closer to home. If your children are not
patriotic, if they do not honor the veterans who made it possible for
them to enjoy freedom, it is your fault. You, Dad, and you, Mom, are
responsible for your children. It is up to you to teach them to honor
the flag, to pray for those in authority, and to appreciate the sacrifices
made for them. It is up to you to make sure they do not forget.
For to forget is to dishonor.
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