WESLEY SMITH, ACLJ
Veterans Day is Monday, November 11th, a Federal Holiday. Formerly known as Armistice Day, this holiday was originally created to commemorate the end of World War I, which officially took place on November 11, 1918. That war was referred to as the “war to end all wars.” That was a naïve and hopeful wish. Obviously, it did not come true. Throughout the 20th Century, and in response to the horrific acts on September 11 at the beginning of the 21st this century, U.S. forces continue to fight the evils that plague our world. In our all-volunteer military, men and women continue to risk their lives as living symbols of justice and freedom, and to counter the forces of evil that would do us harm.
In 1954 the 83rd U.S. Congress – responding to veterans’ service organizations and in the aftermath of World War II and The Korean War — deleted the word “Armistice” and inserted the word “Veterans.” With President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s signature on June 1, 1954, legislation was enacted establishing November 11 as a day to honor all American veterans.
Although many people confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day, we should note that Memorial Day honors those members of the military who paid the ultimate sacrifice and gave their life in the service of our nation. This includes those killed in action or who died as a result of wounds or injuries received in battle. In recent years it became a day to honor all veterans who have passed away, whether or not it was related to battle. That is appropriate.
On the other hand, Veterans Day is an occasion to honor all military veterans who served with honor and to thank them for their service. It has also become a day in which to thank all men and women who continue to serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and the Guard and Reserve.
With controversies over the National Anthem and the American flag so conspicuous, it is tempting to be discouraged and to fear that patriotism is on the decline. What happened to the America of our parents or grandparents? Are we still unified as Americans? Are we truly the United States? Be encouraged. Patriotism still lives. We are still the international beacon of justice, freedom, and hope. There have always been naysayers and those who see the faults of our nation and deny the noble and good. That is as old as our republic. However, as a whole, we are blessed to live in a nation where our communities are united and strong, and where hearts beat with love of country.
A poem, attributed to Colonel C.E. Thompson, is as relevant and meaningful as when he penned these words in 1965.
To you beneath the Crosses
and stones at Arlington,
to you who fell at Iwo
and Salerno and Verdun:
We ask that you
ignore the noise
raised by a fractured few,
and hear the distant heartbeat where
your sons will follow through.
It comes again 11 November
now, and those who walk your land
are here but to remember
and remind you where they stand:
The creed you loved
Your flag shall not come down!
The gift you gave still stirs the brave
and ridicules the clown.
At Schweinfurt and at Midway
and at Inchon and Bastogne
and all the thousand places
where your valor stands alone:
Pray rest you still,
‘till those who scorn
the trumpet have withdrawn.
May God bless all the military veterans of our great nation. May we all aspire to live by the noble intentions and courageous deeds of our founding fathers and mothers—deeds which continue to live through those who wear the uniform of the Armed Forces. Have a blessed and patriotic Veterans Day!
Used with the permission of the American Center for Law and Justice.
Chaplain Colonel (Retired) J. Wesley Smith is Senior Military Analyst at the American Center for Law and Justice. He served 26 years in the Army, with two combat deployments. Prior to his retirement in 2013 Wesley was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Chaplains (Headquarters Department of the Army) with duty as the Senior Army Chaplain at Dover Air Force Base and the Dover Port Mortuary, as well as the senior- ranking Army Chaplain for over-watch of all Casualty Operations. In his military career he served as a Field Artillery Battalion Chaplain, a Field Hospital Chaplain, a Battalion and Assistant Brigade Chaplain with US Army Aviation, and as the Brigade Chaplain for the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division. For four years he was the Religion and Culture Analyst for Army Central Command (ARCENT) where he advised the Commanding General’s staff on the impact of religion and culture on the Army’s mission in the 17 countries in which ARCENT operated. (Chaplain Colonel Smith’s full bio)