OPINION COLUMNS

Why we honor our veterans

By Gerre Joiner | Published Saturday, November 10, 2018
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Recently, my grandchildren were out of school for the day and I wondered why. I had forgotten that it was Columbus Day. That’s the day when we celebrate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492. Tomorrow and Monday, we thankful Americans will have an opportunity to celebrate Veterans Day. For many, it will be a three-day weekend.

Gerre Joiner

Beyond the holiday, I hope we don’t forget the significance of this special day.

First, a little history regarding Veterans Day:

  • It marks the anniversary of the end of World War I. Major hostilities of the war formally ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when the armistice with Germany went into effect. (This must be true. I found it on Wikipedia.)
  • In legislation that was passed in 1938, November 11 was “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.'” It’s a day set aside to thank and honor living veterans who served honorably in the military both in wartime or peacetime.
  • In 1954, after having been through both World War II and the Korean War, US congress (at the urging of veterans service organizations) amended the Act of 1938, striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting the word “Veterans.” Today, we honor all American veterans of all wars.
  • In 1968, the Uniform Holiday Bill ensured three-day weekends for federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day.

Try not to confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day, when we honor those who have died while in military service. We also observe Armed Forces Day in May, when we specifically honor those currently serving in our military.

I also reflect on quotes to understand the meaning and the blessing of being an American. Here are a few.

  • This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave. -Elmer Davis
  • If our country is worth dying for in time of war let us resolve that it is truly worth living for in time of peace. -Hamilton Fish
  • From every mountain side, let freedom ring. -Samuel F. Smith, “America”
  • America is a passionate idea or it is nothing. America is a human brotherhood or it is chaos. -Max Lerner, Actions and Passions, 1949
  • Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American. America is the only idealistic nation in the world. -Woodrow Wilson
  • America is another name for opportunity. Our whole history appears like a last effort of divine providence on behalf of the human race. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in. -Theodore Roosevelt, 1901
  • Our country right or wrong. When right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right. -Carl Schulz
  • It is the flag just as much of the man who was naturalized yesterday as of the men whose people have been here many generations. -Henry Cabot Lodge
  • Our great modern republic. May those who seek the blessings of its institutions and the protection of its flag remember the obligations they impose. -Ulysses S. Grant
  • A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works. -Gary Hart
  • True independence and freedom can only exist in doing what’s right. -Brigham Young
  • America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination, an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand. -Harry Truman

A few days ago, my friend and co-worker Mike Stallsworth, handed me a poem that had been written by his father. W.R. (Bill) Stallsworth is of the “greatest generation.” He served our country in the US Navy. He’s a patriot. He’s a poet.

OUR THANKS TO VETERANS

We don’t say it often enough,
Or we don’t say it loud,
To you we owe our deepest thanks
Thank you for stepping out of the crowd.
We thank you for your unselfish acts
To serve and save and give,
You put your lives right on the line,
So in freedom we might live.
You left your homes and loved ones too,
To face an awful threat,
You stood tall for what you believe,
For some, it’s not over yet.
You were the “Thin Red Line of Heroes,”
When push moved up to shove,
You earned the nation’s admiration,
You earned and have our love.
For those who fell and gave their all,
Their memory we must hold dear,
We thank and clasp them to our hearts,
And with you, we wish they were here.
So to all our veterans we give our thanks,
For answering your nation’s call,
God bless you for what you did,
God bless you. God bless you one and all.

-W.R. Stallsworth Decatur, Texas

Gerry Joiner is a semi-retired church musician and has lived in Decatur since 1999.

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