Celebrating Veterans

A temporary cessation of hostilities, or armistice, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect at 11:00 AM on November 11, 1918 -- the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. This is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

Armistice Day, established the following year by President Wilson, was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I. In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. After World War II and the Korean War the word "Veterans" replace the word "Armistice.” November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

Ceremonies commemorating Veterans Day occur each year at 11:00 AM on November 11 at the memorial amphitheater built around the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington Cemetery when the presidential wreath is laid upon the tomb.

Last Veterans Day my husband, Carl, and I went to the ceremonies at "The Wall" in Washington DC. The Wall is the memorial honoring those who gave their lives during the Vietnam conflict. Carl is a Vietnam Veteran who served in the Marine Corp's air wing. He met and talked with fellow Marines who also served in the 1st Marine Air Wing in Okinawa and Vietnam during that conflict. There are ties that bind them.

The following month, my friend Debbie from California contacted me. Her father, a veteran, had passed away and his military funeral was being held at Arlington National Cemetery. Would we like to come? This was a family with a rich military history. Her grandfather rode with Teddy Roosevelt in the Battle of San Juan. Her family, the Englands, is one of only two who have a plot at Arlington. It was an honor to be a part of the celebration of her father's life.

During a plane trip home from Albuquerque, NM, my husband was sitting across the aisle from me, next to a man, Robert, who served in the Marines around the same time Carl did. He was stationed on the same base in DaNang with the First Battalion that Carl was stationed on when he was in Vietnam. Carl's time was split between Okinawa and Vietnam. They talked for the entire flight -- attracting the attention of a young man in the row behind them who aspires to be a Marine. There are ties that bind them.

Since Robert lives in Albuquerque, I asked him about the Navajo Code Talkers, who fought during World War II. During a visit to the Balloon Fiesta there in 2006 we met the Code Talkers in Albuquerque’s Old Town. They were selling and autographing copies of their book. We spoke with the grandson of one who was trying to capture as many of their stories and history while they were still alive. As my husband asked each to sign the book we bought, he shook each hand, thanked them for their service, and said Semper Fi. I was struck by the contrast between him and them. Carl was from a different part of the country, with a different background, a different generation and fought in a different war. Yet, there were ties that bound them. Robert told us there was only one of the Navajo Code Talkers still living.

Each Veterans Day should be a time when Americans stop and remember the brave men and women who have risked their lives for the United States of America. Today we have Veterans from new wars and conflicts. It's important to honor them and help them with their transition back into civilian life.

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