Today is Veteran’s Day, and Aero Jet Medical Air Ambulance Authority asks everyone to join them in honoring the American men and women who have served or are currently serving in one of our nation’s military branches. These men and women, in the words of Pennsylvania Congressman Bill Shuster, all “accepted the responsibility to defend America and uphold our values when duty called”.
“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!”
American Author Maya Angelou
Originally known as “Armistice Day”, Veteran’s Day has been observed since 1919 when resident Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of the end of World War I, the “war to end all wars”. Although WWI officially ended with the signing of Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, hostilities actually ended seven months earlier, with an armistice (also called a ceasefire or truce) on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, and for that reason November 11th is widely considered to be the end of the Great War.
In 1938 legislation was passed that made November 11th an official federal holiday that was “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’, honoring veteran of WWI. By 1954 the U.S. veterans had fought in both WWII and the Korean War, and veteran’s organizations were advocating for the recognition of these service men and women as well. The 83rd Congress responded by amending the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” The legislation was approved on June 1, 1954, and November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
“The willingness of America’s veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude.” Florida Congressman Jeff Miller
The importance of the date, November 11th, was made clear after legislation was passed in 1968 when Congress passed the Uniform Holiday Bill, which ensured three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. Under this bill, Veterans Day was moved to the last Monday of October beginning in 1971, when Veteran’s Day was observed on October 25th. Initially, all but two states, Mississippi and South Dakota, changed their observance of Veteran’s Day to coincide with the federal observance, but 46 states had reverted their observance back to November 11th by 1975. On September 20, 1975 President Gerald Ford signed legislation returning the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978.
To further honor veterans United States Senate Resolution 143, which was passed on August 4, 2001, designated the week of November 11 through November 17, 2001, as “National Veterans Awareness Week.” The resolution calls for educational efforts directed at elementary and secondary school students concerning the contributions and sacrifices of veterans.
“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.”
English Writer G. K. Chesterton
While many combat veterans are somewhat reluctant to talk about their tours of duty, others are not and their stories can be found in many forms and locations: books, movies, interviews, etc. I was lucky enough to accompany my father-in-law to the dedication ceremony of the National WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Memorial Day, 2004. To be in the presence of so many “heroes and she-roes” was humbling. Their stories, and the stories of veterans from WWI, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and Afghanistan are now being chronicled in the Library of Congress. The Veterans History Project is the result of legislation signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 2000. Many of the interviews have been digitized and can be heard online. My father-in-law, S/SGT Russell A. Hardy was interviewed at the dedication ceremony and his story is now part of the historical records.
“January 29, 1945 we were scheduled to take the town of Bullingen, Belgium…..I was hit with shrapnel from a mortar shell…I was hit in three areas, right thigh, left shoulder, and left hand.” – S/Sgt Russell A. Hardy, K Company, 3rd Regiment, 1st Infantry Division
According to the U.D. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, in 2013 the estimated number of living veterans was 23, 973,000. Broken down by conflict the numbers were:
- WWII – 1,711,000
- Korea – 2,275,000
- Viet Nam – 7,391,000
- Desert Storm / Desert Shield – 5,500,000
- Peacetime only – 6,500,000
To all of the men and women who have ever served or are currently serving in any branch of the U.S. Armed Services, the staff of Aero Jet Medical Air Ambulance Authority say thank you.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – U.S. President John F. Kennedy