View Full Version : A History to Remember

11-14-03, 06:15 AM
Submitted by: MCAS Miramar
Story Identification Number: 2003111319319
Story by Sgt. Valerie A. Martinez

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif.(Nov. 14, 2003) -- The year was 1918. As the clock struck 11 a.m. on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the armistice ending World War I was signed between the Allied powers and Germany.

Four years of fierce fighting between France, Belgium, Japan, New Zealand, Germany, Serbia, Australia, Britain and the United States, to name a few, produced a vast number of casualties for everyone involved. Of the estimated 37.5 million dead, wounded and missing from the first modern global conflict, America lost 262,725 men while Germany suffered nearly 20 times that amount.

To honor the soldiers, Sailors, airmen and Marines who sacrificed their lives for their country, Congress enacted a resolution on May 13, 1938, marking the 11th of November a legal holiday. It was to be known across the U.S., Great Britain and France as Armistice Day - a day dedicated to celebrating world peace.

According to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Web site, www.vfw.org, "If the idealistic hope had been realized that World War I was 'the War to end all Wars,' Nov. 11 might still be called Armistice Day. But only a few years after the holiday was proclaimed, war broke out in Europe."

Nearly 16.5 million Americans took part in the World War II - the greatest mobilization of soldiers, Sailors, airmen and Marines in the nation's history. Of those who served, the VFW Web site estimates that "407,000 of them died in service, more than 292,000 in battle."

Members of the 83rd Congress noticed a glitch in the Armistice Day celebration and recognized that peace was equally preserved by veterans of World War II and Korea as by those that fought for the United States during The Great War. After the fierce battles in Korea, several veterans' service organizations urged that a change be made to the Act of 1938, hoping to make the Nov. 11 holiday an occasion to honor those who served America in all wars. Kansas Rep. Edwin K. Rees spearheaded the request in 1954 by introducing a bill that would do just that, and on June 1, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill into law, officially renaming Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

Each year celebrations are held around the U.S. to remember the fallen and honor those still fighting in this nation's battles.

No other celebration is more time-honored than the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Ceremony in Virginia. This tradition dates back to 1921, when, according to the VFW Web site, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried at the cemetery.

"This site, on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River and the city of Washington, became the focal point of reverence for America's veterans. Similar ceremonies occurred earlier in England and France, where an unknown soldier was buried at each nation's highest place of burial. These memorial gestures all took place on Nov. 11, giving universal recognition to the celebrated ending of World War I fighting."

In 1958 two more unidentified Americans, one killed in World War II the other during the Korean War, "were brought from overseas and interred in the plaza beside the unknown soldier of World War I," cites the VFW Web site.

"In 1973, a law passed providing interment of an unknown American from the Vietnam War, but none was found for several years. In 1984, an unknown serviceman from that conflict was placed alongside the others."

As America and its servicemembers are once again at war, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said in his Veterans Day message that it's important recognize the veterans of the past and present and honor their fight for freedom.

"From the birth of our nation - when farmers dropped their pitchforks, and took up muskets to secure our independence - courageous young men and women have stepped forward to defend freedom. They are America's veterans. Freedom is once again under attack. And, once again, a new generation of veterans is serving - all of you who are fighting today's global war on terror.

"The brave veterans of wars past stand with you every day, but especially on Veterans Day. They are proud of you, they feel a special bond with you - the kind that only those who have smelled the smoke of battle can truly share," said Rumsfeld. "Today, you carry on their struggle - the battle for human freedom. And as you do, you are taking your rightful place alongside the heroes of wars past. You are in freedom's fight. We owe you our liberty.

"And we thank you for all you do for our country."