, Newburyport, MA


November 11, 2013

Editorial: At the 11th hour ...

It is a function of the calendar and not congressional design that the nation celebrates Veterans Day today, on a Monday.

With the exception of a failed experiment in the early 1970s, the country has paused to honor its veterans at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month since the “war to end all wars” unofficially ended with the armistice of 1918.

Few federal holidays have escaped the move to make more three-day weekends than a date of historical significance — Independence Day, Christmas and, yes, Veterans Day.

The date carries great significance in the country’s history and the ill-conceived Uniform Holiday Bill of 1968 just didn’t fly with people who recognized and honored that. Sometimes, a holiday must be observed on the day it was intended, three-day weekends be damned.

Schools can be forgiven their early observances of the day since they are closed today. The celebrations and honors started last week in some schools, with veterans and their families invited to school cafeterias for breakfast, patriotic songs and bridge building between the very young and the men and women whose sacrifices made ordinary life possible.

Last Monday, one young student in Derry connected with her dad, serving in Afghanistan, through Skype. Nearby, a great-grandfather of 89 rose from his wheelchair when the assemblage paid tribute to the dwindling reserve of World War II veterans.

This country’s last known World War I veteran died in 2011. Now, the Vietnam veterans, once much scorned for their participation in one of the nation’s most contentious wars, are among the grizzled, their weathered faces mirroring those of the veterans they once celebrated as schoolchildren.

Most Korean War veterans, marking the 60th anniversary of that conflict’s armistice, are in their 80s.

But it was a contingent of members of the Greatest Generation, survivors of World War II, who earlier this fall reminded the country and all its people why veterans are a breed apart.

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