I hope you will join in celebrating those who ensured our freedom sometime today.
It’s Veterans Day, the perfect partial antidote to the scars left by our contentious election. It is a day when we can come together, despite political preferences, to honor those men and women of our armed forces who served in generations past and those who are protecting us today.
The official time for such remembrance is at 11 this morning — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — 102 years after the ending of World War 1. If that is not convenient for you, then set a time to pause and be thankful.
“Armistice Day,” as it was first called, commemorated the idealistic hope that our first world war would be our last. It received that name in this country through a Congressional resolution in 1926. That hope did not last, however. War soon broke out again in Europe. 470,000 Americans died in service during that second major war and needed to be remembered as well.
I remember the name changes that followed. A Kansan, U.S. Representative Edward Rees, proposed replacing the Armistice Day name with Veterans Day in 1954. Another Kansan, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, signed the official proclamation making November 11 the national holiday.
Somehow, in 1968, that day was changed to the fourth Monday in October. The public was not pleased. Because of its significance, the date was returned to November 11 in 1978. (Veterans Day is spelled without an apostrophe for you grammarians. That indicates that the day is attributive and not possessive. It honors veterans; they do not possess it.)
The official national ceremonies on this day are held at the “Tomb of the Unknowns” in Arlington Cemetery. Today, at 11:00, our president or his representative will join a combined military honor guard representing all branches of service as they “Present Arms” at the Tomb. A bugler will play “Taps.”
The unknown soldiers entombed at Arlington represent all those who have died in the service of this country. The first one was selected in 1921, following that first “great” war. Four caskets containing unknown Americans were disinterred from different European cemeteries.
Sgt. Edward S. Younger, 59th Infantry, the most decorated enlisted man in that war, chose a casket in France, placing a spray of white roses on it to signify his selection. That Unknown Soldier was returned to this country and lay in state for two days in the Capitol rotunda before reburial.
In 1958, the bodies of two more unknowns were interred beside that first one. One had lost his life in World War 11; the other, in the Korean Conflict. Remains from Vietnam were added in 1984.
The Tomb is a “must” visit for the patriotic. Almost in the center of Arlington, it faces Washington D.C. across the Potomac. The caskets rest in a block of Colorado marble, their contents “known only to God.” The protective patrolling sentinel changes on the hour in ceremonies marked by hushed and dignified silence.
Many of our area celebrations to honor our veterans have been canceled this year because of Covid. We can still recall and remember. We can visit the Miami County Veterans Memorial in Paola or the smaller one in Osawatomie. We can thank those in our families and among our friends who serve.
I will be readying shipments of books for Operation Paperback, a volunteer organization that provides reading materials to our troops and our veterans, remembering them in a way special to me.
I encourage each of you to find a way to offer tribute to those, who “fought to keep our country free.”