Happy Veterans Day, Dad!

flag-mini-American My father is a veteran of World War II. I’m glad he made it through the war, met my mom, got married, and had ten kids (of which I’m the tenth, so ... ) And I’m glad he’s still alive and kicking!
PFC Stuart A
While I was growing up, I was vaguely aware that dad had been in that war, but never knew
how he'd been in it because he didn’t really talk about it. Then, when my son did a grade school report about his grandfather, I started learning heretofore unknown facts about my dad -- for instance, he was in the Junior ROTC during high school, and he appears in uniform in his senior year picture (someday I'll have a scan of that); in addition to playing the guitar with a military ensemble over in France (or Germany?), he played the mellophone; although I don’t think he participated in direct combat, he did the scary work of clearing anti-tank mines; and when the war ended he performed occupation service in Germany (or possibly France). Dad has interesting stories of his time in Europe during the War, and he remembers some of those times with a good deal of warmth. If he experienced anything grim, a la Saving Private Ryan, he is not dwelling on it publicly. I greatly enjoy hearing him reminisce, and hope to document some of his memories in the near future.

Veterans Day was originally meant to honor those who served in World War I, it now honors soldiers from all wars, including Dear Old Dad. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed an Armistice Day for November 11, 1919 -- one year after the armistice was signed between the allied nations and Germany, effectively ending “the war to end all wars.” (The war formally ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919.) In 1938, November 11 became a legal holiday -- "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'." Then in 1953, a shoe store owner in Emporia (isn’t that a great name for a town!), Kansas named Al King started a campaign to turn Armistice Day into "All" Veterans Day. A year later President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law, “Armistice” was replaced with “Veterans,” and it’s been Veterans Day ever since, with some controversy over whether and where to put an apostrophe. (Formally, there is no apostrophe.)

Starting in 1971, according to the
Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Day was scheduled on the fourth Monday in October, in keeping with President Lyndon Johnson's “Uniform Holiday Bill." The bill promoted 3-day holiday weekends for government workers, and enabled them to travel and "and see more of this beautiful land of ours." The change caused confusion and was short-lived -- Veterans Day was changed back to November 11 in 1978 and has been celebrated on this date -- as it is in many countries, where it is known variously as Remembrance Day, Poppy Day, Armistice Day, and Veterans Day -- ever since.

I'm sure dad has a flag flying in front of his house 300 miles from my own, as it always hung in front of our childhood home on similarly patriotic holidays. I've prompted him to look for his Army of Occupation medal and dig out that high school ROTC photo. Perhaps he's doing some reminiscing about his service overseas during World War II on this day. However he is spending it, I'm grateful he lived through it and can pass the remembrances on to his many children. Dad, I salute you on this Veterans Day for your good service to the country!