To Forget is to Dishonor

By Tom Barrett

Tomorrow 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 between nations."

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) "offending" anyone.

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 the
observance 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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