Veterans Day is a federal holiday in the United States to recognize the millions of Americans who have served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard. Like many of you, I come from a long line of veterans. My relatives have fought in every major combat from the French and Indian War (pre-Revolution) to Vietnam and in every branch of the United States military. Most notably my father who enlisted in the Navy during World War II immediately following his high school graduation in 1943. However, like me, you may not be aware of the history behind this national day of honor and remembrance.
Did you know…
Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day? In recognition of the armistice signed in the forest of Compiegne in northern France, at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 halting formal hostilities between the Allies and Germany effectively ending World War I. Celebrated for the first time on November 11, 1919, all business ceased in the United States for two minutes when the clock struck eleven o’clock in solemn remebrance of the war dead. From the beginning, parades and public gatherings were part of the traditional festivities marking the holiday.
The Tomb of the Unknowns was originally dedicated to an unknown soldier from World War I? The Tomb of the Unknowns is a monument located in Arlington National Cemetery which contains the unidentified remains of a World War I soldier selected at random by U.S. Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger. Younger was highly decorated for valor and had received the Distinguished Service Medal for his service in “The Great War.” Four unknown U.S. soldiers were exhumed from four American World War I cemeteries in France. At the city hall in Chalons-sur-Marne, France, on October 24, 1921, Sergeant Younger selected the unknown by placing white roses on one of the four identical caskets. After arriving in the United States, the Unknown Soldier lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda until Armistice Day of that year when President Warren Harding officiated over his interment at Arlington National Cemetery. The inscription on the back of the monument reads “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”
Although it has never been officially dedicated as such, the Tomb of the Unknowns is commonly referred to as The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The white marble sarcophagus sits above the grave of the Unknown Soldier from World War I but nearby are the crypts of unknowns from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Red poppies are a symbol associated with our Veterans? Two days before the Armistice was signed in 1918, Miss Moina Belle Michael read a poem in the November edition of the Ladies Home Journal entitled “We Shall Not Sleep” which spoke of the red poppies growing in spring that covered the graves of fallen soldiers as well as the devastated battlefields they left behind. The poem, more famously known as “In Flanders Fields” was written by Canadian John McCrae following the death in action of a close friend.
“Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”
Deeply moved by these lines in McCrae’s poem, Moina vowed to never forget the fallen soldiers of World War I and started a national campaign to designate the red poppy as a symbol of remembrance for America’s war dead. Although Congress never acted on Moina’s proposal, the newly founded American Legion adopted the Flanders Poppy as their symbol of remembrance. Today on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day it is common to see members of the American Legion distributing silk poppies to encourage Americans to remember those who gave their lives in service to our country.
Armistice Day was celebrated until 1954? Following a national campaign for a national holiday that would recognize the sixteen million veterans who served in World War II as well as the 5.7 million who served in Korea, the 83rd Congress replaced the word Armistice with the word Veteran to recognized all those who have served in any branch of the United States military, living or dead.
For eight years Veterans Day was celebrated in October? In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill creating four Federal holidays (Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day). The bill designated Monday observances for the holidays to encourage tourism and travel by creating four three-day weekends. In accordance with the bill, the observance of Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October. This created a great deal of confusion as many states disapproved of the change and continued their observances in November. Citing the historical and patriotic significance of the date, President Gerald Ford officially returned the federal observance of Veterans Day to November 11 in 1975.
Here is my Veteran, my husband, 1LT Michael A. Goshorn, when stationed at Fort Ord, California from 1989-1993. In this photo, Mike is on the far right of the front row. My husband served six years in the Army, two enlisted and four as an officer following the completion of his dual degrees in physics and electrical engineering. While enlisted he learned Chinese at the Defense Language Institute and was later assigned to the National Security Agency (NSA), Ft. Meade, Maryland. As an officer, he was assigned to the Chemical Corps and then was stationed at Ford Ord. While in California, Mike first served in the Field Artillery Battalion Headquarters Company with the 7th ID (Infantry Division). Two years later, Mike was reassigned to the Headquarters Company of a Helicopter Battalion, also at Ft. Ord. Thankfully he never saw combat although he served during the Gulf War.
In honor of Veterans Day, tell me about the Veteran in your life.
“assigned to the National Security Agency (NSA), Ft. Meade, Maryland. As an officer, he was assigned to the Chemical Corps and then was stationed at Ford Ord. While in California, Mike first served in the Field Artillery Battalion Headquarters Company with the 7th ID (Infantry Division). Two years later, Mike was reassigned to the Headquarters Company of a Helicopter Battalion, also at Ft. Ord. Thankfully he never saw combat although he served during the Gulf War.”
Your husband was a lingie! I was an O5H, enlisted. Morse Code Intercept Operator in Augsburg, Germany at the big sapphire necklace. I sent my Russian plaintext to the lingies in Fort Ord to translate.
Hi Tina, It really is a small world! I saw your Veterans’s Day pic in uniform. How long did you serve?
What an excellent article. Thank you.
Thank you! You are always so kind and supportive! A true blessing!