Let's not forget original reason for Veterans Day

Thursday, November 8, 2018

A number of schools plan special Veterans Day ceremonies Friday honoring those who have served in the military, in anticipation of Sunday’s official Nov. 11 observance.

There’s no shortage of war veterans, extending backward from today’s conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, through Vietnam, Korea and World War II, and, sadly, veterans of those later wars listed are rapidly passing into memory.

We hope you took in the “Civil War Voices” presentation Wednesday at the Fox Theatre, recounting original experiences of some who were involved in America’s bloodiest war. Jim Harris and all those involved in the production deserve thanks for keeping stories of sacrifice alive.

While all veterans deserve honor and recognition, this is a good time to remember the sacrifices made for those for whom the holiday, originally Armistice Day, was created.

President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Armistice Day a year after the end that was optimistically called the “War to End all Wars.”

Unfortunately, The Great War served only as a prototype from the even greater conflict that was World War II.

More than 30 nations were at war between 1914 and 1918, the conflict that introduced aerial warfare and tanks, involving 65 million troops worldwide.

The United States was finally drawn into the conflict in 1917, with nearly 5 million men and women serving in American armed forces, 116,516 of them killed.

According the Census Bureau, the first post-war count included 3.7 million veterans of The Great War.

By 1990, 72 years after the end of the war, the census showed about 62,000 World War I veterans still alive.

The last known surviving U.S. World War I veteran, Frank Buckles, died in 2011.

Armistice Day became Veterans Day in 1954, and now pays tribute to all veterans who served our country in peacetime and war. Today, 18.2 million veterans live in the United States and Puerto Rico, according to Census Bureau data.

Many of us remember hearing war stories growing up, and wish we could hear them again. Others wish our loved ones would share more of their experiences with us, or, if we’re a veteran ourselves, may be reluctant to relive painful events.

Whatever the case, this weekend’s Veterans Day observance deserves more than a moment of reflection and gratitude.

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