Nov. 11, next Thursday, is Veterans Day - a time to honor and thank those who served and sacrificed for our way of life. Although we should remember all veterans, both living and dead, it is especially gratifying that we have an opportunity to personally thank some of these living patriots for their willingness to put aside their personal desires for the common good.
So, if you know any veterans, take a moment to thank them for their service. Acknowledge their contributions and their place in history. Take some time and listen to their stories, if they want to share any. If you don't know any veterans, fly your flag that day, and wear a pin or ribbon lapel to let passing veterans know you appreciate their service.
Nov. 11 has a long tradition of being the day we honor veterans for their contributions. Veterans Day is sometimes confused with Memorial Day, which is reserved to honor fallen patriots. Veterans Day allows us to give some tribute to those still living. In the past, parades, prayer services and rallies were common. That trend seems to be disappearing, but there are still services and gatherings that pay homage to veterans.
Veterans Day, the anniversary of the armistice that put an end to WWI, is observed each year on Nov. 11 regardless of which day of the week it occurs. A move several years ago attempted to make the observance more convenient by shifting the holiday in order to make a three day weekend. Many were opposed to shifting the holiday from Nov. 11 because the number 11 is so significant to the observance: the armistice was signed in 1918 during the 11th month on the 11th day at the 11th hour. That's why some Veterans Day observances call for a moment of silence at 11 a.m.
Originally called Armistice Day, the name was changed in 1954 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill into law "to honor veterans... a day dedicated to world peace."
Some interesting trivia related to the holiday:
Kate Smith first sang Irving Berlin's song "God Bless America" on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1938 during the New York World's Fair. Mr. Berlin donated all royalties from the song, an instant hit, to the scouts.
There are 25 million living American veterans.
Armistice Day was first called Veterans Day in 1953 when the townspeople of Emporia, Kansas, wanted to show gratitude to their local veterans. The following year Congress officially changed the name.
Several other countries honor their veterans on Nov. 11, including Canada, Australia and Great Britain.
The Library of Congress is conducting The Veterans History Project which relies on volunteers to interview, record, compile and donate materials. To find out more about this project, which collects and preserves wartime stories, personal narratives, correspondence or visual material, go to the Web site www.loc.gov/folklife/vets.