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November 9, 2013

A salute from one vet to the others

PRYOR, OK — Rusty Fleming

Special to Pryor Times

This Monday, Nov. 11, if it weren’t for the closings of banks, federal and state offices and a few others, perhaps a memorable Veterans’ Day would come and pass with little fanfare other than that generated by veterans themselves. A few parades, some VFW Post festivities and a few other scheduled events will celebrate a day set aside to thank veterans of all wars who have often times made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. The fact this year’s Veterans’ Day falls on Nov. 11 is significant as related to the day’s history.

The history of Veterans’ Day is tied to the end of the Dough Boys victory over the Germans in World War I. World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town in France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn 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…"

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m. Later, congress would become involved and made Nov. 11 an annual legal holiday in 1938. Though originally established to honor vets from World War I, it was amended in 1954 following a bloody World War II and a brutal police action in Korea. It was expanded to honor all veterans of all wars and the name was changed to Veterans’ Day...

The next big change in the Veterans’ Day observance came in 1968, when the Uniform Holiday Bill was signed into law establishing a three day holiday in connection with Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day, and Columbus Day. This generated a lot of confusion with respect to Veterans’ Day with many states ignoring the new law and continuing to celebrate Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11. In 1975, President Gerald Ford re-established the recognition of Veterans’ Day as Nov. 11, regardless of the day of the week.

Throughout our country and in Oklahoma there will be parades, flags waving and an opportunity for all to find a veteran and simply say, “Thank You for your service.”  Locally, the South Grand Lake Lions Club, who is to be commended for their efforts to build the Veteran’s Plaza in Langley, will hold a ceremony at the plaza on Saturday morning to honor all vets.

As a vet who served his time in the United States Marine Corps, including a tour of duty in Vietnam, my respect for vets wasn’t learned while sitting on a bar stool debating national or international politics. It was learned by enduring the same hardships that my fellow vets endured and knowing that unless a person has been there, done that, they don’t have a clue.

I will proudly snap off my best salute to my fellow vets on this, their very special day….one for remembering the good times, the good guys and their answer to the call of duty when they were needed. You see, there’s just a little more to it than a convenient three day holiday.

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