“Give everyone what you owe him: … if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13, NIV)
Tomorrow is Veterans Day. It is a day of remembrance of the veterans who have given their lives for their country.
There is a lengthy history of how the name became Veterans Day. The name originally for this day of remembrance was known as Armistice Day. The name came about because our country had entered what we know as the First World War in April 6, 1917, and in the years of this war we lost 116,516 fighting men. We had entered the war to help our Allies against Germany. Germany had lost so many of its fighting forces that the German government had made an appeal to President Woodrow Wilson for an armistice on Oct. 4, 1918. President Wilson said he wanted Kaiser Wilhelm II to abdicate his throne and that Germany replace their government with a democracy. Our American commander in France, Gen. John J. Pershing, wanted to totally destroy the German army, but our Allies were in favor of an armistice and President Wilson concurred. President Wilson put together 14 points for the armistice to take place.
Finally, the Kaiser abdicated his throne and fled from Germany on Nov. 9, 1918. The next day the new German government accepted the terms and on Nov. 11, 1918, in the Forest of Compiegne the representatives of the Allies and the Germans signed the armistice that would become effective at 11 a.m. that same day. In the United States the news of the German surrender arrived at 3 a.m. There was a great outburst of joy with factory horns blaring, sirens wailing, people were marching in the streets arm in arm, some crying and others laughing. In some of the large cities there was some rioting for joy. The biggest war to date in history was ended; the celebration was a big one.
A year later, many people in our great country wanted a commemoration to be established in honor of this great occasion. President Wilson made a proclamation that starting Nov, 11, 1919, the day would be known as Armistice Day to honor those who died in the country’s service with solemn pride and gratitude for the victory. There were parades and worship services throughout the country.
As time went on, our allies, England and France, paid tribute in 1920 to their dead who had been buried without identification. Our own country found four unidentified heroes in cemeteries in France and their caskets were dug up and one of our most decorated American enlisted man, Sgt. Edward S. Younger of the 59th Infantry, chose one of the caskets by placing white roses on it. This Unknown Soldier was returned to America via the cruiser Olympia and was laid in state in the rotunda of the Capitol. On Armistice Day the caisson bearing the casket went to Arlington National Cemetery. The Unknown Soldier rests in the center of cemetery with the inscription “HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD.”
Following World War I, the United States was involved in World War II from Dec. 7, 1941, through Aug. 14, 1945, and in the Korean conflict from 1950 to 1953. Many states began to incorporate the dead of all American wars. On Nov. 11, 1953, in Emporia, Kan., the term Veterans Day was used. In February 1954 Rep. Edward J. Rees of Emporia presented a bill in Congress that called for Armistice Day to be officially known as Veterans Day. Congress passed the bill without any opposition and it was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 1, 1954. Thus Veterans Day is a day we honor the men and women who gave their lives to keep America free and safe.
On this day we need to comfort and console those families and friends and neighbors of the veteran who gave his or her life for us who remain to continue to live in this great country of ours.
We will gather together to watch parades of veterans past and in some areas we will see servicemen and women in uniform marching with their heads held high in respect and honor of those who died in battle and service of our country. Those men and women were family to us all and what makes us so is that we are Americans, and as Americans when the call came for us to join together in time of war or disaster, we did not remain seated, but we arose to the task. For many of us learned as youngsters that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper.
Along with those words we learned to love our neighbors as ourselves. These words come from the Scriptures, which teach us of the unconditional love God has for His people and we are to put that love into practice with our fellow Americans. Let us never forget that God has blessed our great nation and will continue to so as long as we do not forget Him.
Americans throughout this land will call upon God to thank Him for carrying us through our times of grief and sorrow and He has never abandoned us and the Lord God has uplifted us and He has given us the capability to never lose our resolve; thus He allows to stand with love, respect, honor and pride as we remember those Americans who gave their lives so that we can live in the land of the free.
The Rev. Aram T. Marashlian is chaplain emeritus of the Newburyport Fire Department.