Veterans Day: United and proud to be Americans

November 11, 2011

I’ve never been in the military service. I’ve never known the bravery of being in combat. Others have done this for me and they have done this for my country.

For those reasons, I am grateful to them and grateful that we have a day to acknowledge their contributions; it’s known as Veterans Day and will take place today, Nov. 11. It honors all who have served in the nation’s armed forces, whether they are living or dead.

This holiday has its roots stemming from World War I, when President Wilson proclaimed Armistice Day. The Treaty of Versailles was signed between the allies and Germany at the 11th hour on the 11th day on the month of November.

The principal concept as expressed by President Wilson was to show pride and to honor those who died during this war in service to their country and the principals of freedom.

There would be a moment of silence at the 11th hour on this day followed by parades and memorial services.

We’ve all faced different challenges and what seems like hopeless situations. We’ve all been tested in some way in a sink or swim atmosphere. But none of us have been tested to the extent of any of our fellow country men who have known the bleakness of war.

I’ve never had to face the kind of fear that runs so deep that your very existence is called into question. I’ve never held that loneliness of being away from your family for uncertain amount of days and nights. Others have done that for me.

I’ve never had to slog through that kind of mud, rain, snow or extreme heat that battle weary men and women endure. Others have done that for me.

Appropriately, Veterans Day is also the holiday that pays tribute to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Congress approved this in 1921 and it was declared a legal holiday on the federal level.

Little did the country know that World War I, also called the Great War, would not be the end of world conflicts. What followed was World War II and the Korean War. Millions of veterans were added to the list. So in 1954, President Eisenhower changed the name from Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day.

Too often, surrounded by our comforts and easy habits, we forget how we got here. It’s so important to give tribute to our history.

And our history consists of men and women who wore that uniform, flew that flag and laid down in fields and terrain all over the world. You can almost hear their footprints and boots on these special holidays that call them back for our humble attempt at gratitude.

For me the poem by Father Denis Edward O’Brien, USMC, called, “Remember,” puts some of this in perspective:

“It was the veteran, not the reporter, who gave us freedom of the press.

It was the veteran, not the poet, who gave us freedom of speech.

It was the veteran, not the lawyer, who gave us the right to a fair trial.

It was the veteran, not the campus organizer, who gave us the freedom to demonstrate.

It was the veteran, who salutes the flag, who served under the flag and whose coffin is draped by the flag that allows the protester to burn the flag.”

All of those people named above are still vital and bring something to the table, but for me, it is the veteran who sets the table.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.