Service & sacrifice: Remembering those who have served
Posted: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 8:01 pm
By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
Eleven. Eleven. Eleven.
The numbers signify the time, day and month Germany signed the Armistice that officially ended the Great War — World War I.
The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. War, on such a scale, was never supposed to happen again. And despite their heartfelt gratitude to those who placed themselves in harm’s way for the sake of their fellow countrymen, citizens all around the globe fervently hoped that mankind had, at last, fought the final great battle; just as mankind has been hoping since the dawn of time.
Lasting just over 4 1/2 years, the “War to End All Wars” did not draw the United States in officially until authorization of war with Germany was signed on April 6, 1917, and war with Austria-Hungary on Dec. 7 of that year, during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. Eventually, 2.8 million men were drafted through the Selective Service Act, including African-American combat regiments who were then utilized in French divisions. Among them were the Harlem Hellfighters, who engaged the enemy as part of the French 16th Division, earning a unit Croix de Guerre for their actions.
The last surviving doughboy of the 4,734,991 Americans who served in World War I is enlistee Frank Woodruff Buckles of West Virginia, who was born Feb. 1, 1901, in Missouri. As of this week, he is still alive and looking to celebrate his 110th birthday in a few months. Having survived the bloody action in Europe as a boy soldier, Buckles found himself in even more difficulties some 20 years later — and this time he was not even wearing the uniform of his beloved country or carrying a weapon to defend himself and his nation. During World War II, he became a civilian prisoner of war of the Japanese for 39 months, subsisting daily on a small tin cup of beans, rice and worm-filled mush until his rescue Feb. 23, 1945 — the very day on which he was slated to be executed by his captors.
World War I was not the first struggle to involve Americans. Throughout her history, beginning with frontier battles even before men from every social strata and background resorted to the taking up of arms to purchase freedom for themselves and their fellow citizens from a tyrannical English king and Parliament, America’s patriots have shed their blood in a variety of battles against an array of enemies. But the cessation of hostilities that marked the close of World War I did give birth to a unique global celebration. First known and still regarded as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day throughout the rest of the world, Nov. 11, in the United States, is recognized now by another name — a name that places emphasis on those who fought in the trenches; a name that focuses on their courage, commitment, service and sacrifice.
The Nov. 11 celebration date was first proclaimed by Wilson in 1919, a year after the war ended. The president said: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with lots of pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”
Seven years later, Congress asked President Calvin Coolidge to issue another proclamation to observe Nov. 11 with appropriate ceremonies and on May 13, 1938, the 11th of November became an annual legal holiday “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’”
By 1953, with two other wars having affected every community and virtually every family in the nation, a move gained support to expand Armistice Day to celebrate every American who had engaged in battle for, or service to, his country. It was proposed that the day be one in which “all” veterans were recognized. A bill to cease business in honor of all those who had fought was pushed through Congress and signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower May 26, 1954. A few days later, on June 1, Congress amended the act, officially changing the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
The significance of the date selected for Veterans Day was briefly upset by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971, which changed Veterans Day to the fourth Monday of October; however, in 1978, the celebration regained its original “dated” place on the calendar. One unfortunate effect of that move back has been that not so many businesses, schools and other institutions honor the day with the closing of their doors.
And while, in our own community, business may go on as usual for private enterprise, several government entities will be closing up shop for the day. And several celebrations have been planned, with some having already taken place in happy anticipation of the opportunity to thank all veterans — approximately 2,557 of them — in Obion County.
Third-graders at Union City Elementary School paid homage to veterans with a special musical program for all UCES students Tuesday afternoon and for family and friends that night. Veterans attending were asked to stand as the children sang the songs of their service branches.
At Lake Road School a Veterans Day celebration held Tuesday evening featured the third grade and the Obion County Children’s Chorus, who presented several patriotic songs. A special song was presented by the third grade teachers. Veteran Chris Cummings was the guest speaker. Names of veterans known to students and staff at Lake Road staff were read aloud by principal Dennis Buckelew and all veterans in attendance were asked to stand and be recognized. A reception followed the program.
A parade honoring veterans was staged in Martin over the past weekend and veterans were the focus of a special program at Haws Memorial Nursing Home in Fulton a few days ago.
Among events planned for Thursday and the remainder of the week are the following:
• Hillcrest School in Troy will host an assembly honoring all local veterans Thursday from 8:30-9 a.m. in the school gym.
Boy Scouts will provide the color guard and the Hillcrest band will present the National Anthem. Special seating has been reserved for all veterans and there will be a Wall of Honor featuring the names of veterans submitted by Hillcrest students and staff. A special movie tribute will focus on photos of many of these veterans.
The program is open to the public. For more information, contact teacher Courtney Gantt at the school.
“We want to extend an open invitation to any and all veterans who would like to join us,” Mrs. Gantt said. “Anyone else who would like to join us in saying ‘thanks’ to our veterans will also be welcome.”
• Black Oak School will host a Veterans Day program Thursday at 9 a.m. in the school gym. Active military, veterans and family members of those serving or of veterans are invited.
Groups taking part in the program will include children in grades third through fifth, Boy Scouts, Black Oak Chorus and the Junior High Band.
• Jacob Flournoy Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution Service for Veterans officer Lora James has announced plans for a special Veterans Day ceremony on Friday at 10 a.m. at South Fulton City Hall. South Fulton city manager Jeff Vowell and DAR regent Sallie Ferguson will have the welcome and introduction. A special flag ceremony, including the presentation of a prisoner of war flag, will be made to the city by Ms. James on behalf of the chapter.
A United States flag retirement ceremony will be performed by the Fulton American Legion. A tree will be planted in honor and memory of veterans by DAR members, as well as city and county officials. All veterans who are present will be recognized. Sammy Haddad and Charles W. Andrews will remember fallen heroes named on the South Fulton War Memorial. Patriotic music will be provided by Greg Sinclair and balloons will be released.
“The public is invited free of charge and we especially encourage veterans or families of veterans to attend,” Ms. James said, adding, “Please bring chairs.”
• Jones-Walker Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4862 in Union City will host a Veterans Day breakfast Saturday at 9 at the post home on North Clover Street in Union City. The event is open to all veterans. Call 885-1502 for more information. Country ham, eggs and biscuits will be served, free of charge.
The War to End All Wars failed to live up to its promise.
May we, nevertheless, honor our pledge to pay tribute to those who have made it their job to carry on the struggle for peace.
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 11.10.10