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The Origins of Veterans Day



In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. This site, on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River and the city of Washington, D.C., became the focal point of reverence for America’s veterans.

Similar ceremonies occurred earlier in England and France, where an unknown soldier was buried in each nation’s highest place of honor (in England, Westminster Abbey; in France, the Arc de Triomphe). These memorial gestures all took place on November 11, giving universal recognition to the celebrated ending of World War I fighting at 11 a.m., November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). The day became known as “Armistice Day.”

Armistice Day officially received its name in America in 1926 through a Congressional resolution. It became a national holiday 12 years later by similar Congressional action. If the idealistic hope had been realized that World War I was “the War to end all wars,” November 11 might still be called Armistice Day. But only a few years after the holiday was proclaimed, war broke out in Europe. Sixteen and one-half million Americans took part. Four hundred seven thousand of them died in service, more than 292,000 in battle.

Armistice Day Changed To Honor All Veterans

The first celebration using the term Veterans Day occurred in Birmingham , Alabama , in 1947. Raymond Weeks, a World War II veteran, organized "National Veterans Day," which included a parade and other festivities, to honor all veterans. The event was held on November 11, then designated Armistice Day. Later, U.S. Representative Edward Rees of Kansas proposed a bill that would change Armistice Day to Veterans Day. In 1954, Congress passed the bill that President Eisenhower signed proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day. Raymond Weeks received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Reagan in November 1982. Weeks' local parade and ceremonies are now an annual event celebrated nationwide.

On Memorial Day 1958, two more unidentified American war dead were brought from overseas and interred in the plaza beside the unknown soldier of World War I. One was killed in World War II, the other in the Korean War. In 1984, an unknown serviceman from the Vietnam War was placed alongside the others. The remains from Vietnam were exhumed May 14, 1998 , identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, and removed for burial. To honor these men, symbolic of all Americans who gave their lives in all wars, an Army honor guard, the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard), keeps day and night vigil.

A law passed in 1968 changed the national commemoration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. It soon became apparent, however, that November 11 was a date of historic significance to many Americans. Therefore, in 1978 Congress returned the observance to its traditional date.

National Ceremonies Held at Arlington National Cemetery

The focal point for official, national ceremonies for Veterans Day continues to be the memorial amphitheater built around the Tomb of the Unknowns. At 11 a.m. on November 11, a combined color guard representing all military services executes “Present Arms” at the tomb. The nation’s tribute to its war dead is symbolized by the laying of a presidential wreath. The bugler plays “taps.” The rest of the ceremony takes place in the amphitheater.

Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington and elsewhere are coordinated by the President’s Veterans Day National Committee. Chaired by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the committee represents national veterans organizations.

Governors of many states and U.S. territories appoint Veterans Day chairpersons who, in cooperation with the National Committee and the Department of Defense, arrange and promote local ceremonies.

Additional Information

Additional information on the history of Veterans Day, the Veterans Day National Committee, the national ceremony, a gallery of Veterans Day posters from 1978 to the present and a colorful and informative Veterans Day Teacher’s Resource Guide can be found on the Internet at

                                        Buddy Poppy

Among all the flowers that evoke the memories and emotions of war is the red poppy, which became associated with war after the publication of a poem written by Col. John McCrae of Canada. The poem, "In Flander's Field," describes blowing red fields among the battleground of the fallen.

For more than 75 years, the VFW's Buddy Poppy program has raised millions of dollars in support of veterans' welfare and the well being of their dependents.

The VFW conducted its first poppy distribution before Memorial Day in 1922, becoming the first veterans' organization to organize a nationwide distribution. The poppy soon was adopted as the official memorial flower of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.


 

It was during the 1923 encampment that the VFW decided that VFW Buddy Poppies be assembled by disabled and needy veterans who would be paid for their work to provide them with some form of financial assistance. The plan was formally adopted during the VFW's 1923 encampment. The next year, disabled veterans at the Buddy Poppy factory in Pittsburgh assembled VFW Buddy Poppies. The designation "Buddy Poppy" was adopted at that time.

In February 1924, the VFW registered the name "Buddy Poppy" with the U.S. Patent Office. A certificate was issued on May 20, 1924, granting the VFW all trademark rights in the name of Buddy under the classification of artificial flowers. The VFW has made that trademark a guarantee that all poppies bearing that name and the VFW label are genuine products of the work of disabled and needy veterans. No other organization, firm or individual can legally use the name "Buddy" Poppy.

Today, VFW Buddy Poppies are still assembled by disabled and needy veterans in VA Hospitals.

The minimal assessment (cost of Buddy Poppies) to VFW units provides compensation to the veterans who assemble the poppies, provides financial assistance in maintaining state and national veterans' rehabilitation and service programs and partially supports the VFW National Home for orphans and widows of our nation's veterans.


In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

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.

McCrae's "In Flanders Fields" remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems ever written. It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915. Here is the story of the making of that poem:

Although he had been a doctor for years and had served in the South African War, it was impossible to get used to the suffering, the screams, and the blood here, and Major John McCrae had seen and heard enough in his dressing station to last him a lifetime.

As a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, Major McCrae, who had joined the McGill faculty in 1900 after graduating from the University of Toronto, had spent seventeen days treating injured men -- Canadians, British, Indians, French, and Germans -- in the Ypres salient.

It had been an ordeal that he had hardly thought possible. McCrae later wrote of it:

"I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days... Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done."

One death particularly affected McCrae. A young friend and former student, Lieut. Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, had been killed by a shell burst on 2 May 1915. Lieutenant Helmer was buried later that day in the little cemetery outside McCrae's dressing station, and McCrae had performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain.

The next day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station beside the Canal de l'Yser, just a few hundred yards north of Ypres, McCrae vented his anguish by composing a poem. The major was no stranger to writing, having authored several medical texts besides dabbling in poetry.

In the nearby cemetery, McCrae could see the wild poppies that sprang up in the ditches in that part of Europe, and he spent twenty minutes of precious rest time scribbling fifteen lines of verse in a notebook.

A young soldier watched him write it. Cyril Allinson, a twenty-two year old sergeant-major, was delivering mail that day when he spotted McCrae. The major looked up as Allinson approached, then went on writing while the sergeant-major stood there quietly. "His face was very tired but calm as we wrote," Allinson recalled. "He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer's grave."

When McCrae finished five minutes later, he took his mail from Allinson and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the young NCO. Allinson was moved by what he read:

"The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene."

In fact, it was very nearly not published. Dissatisfied with it, McCrae tossed the poem away, but a fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915


Veterans Day MySpace Comments and Graphics

Click on a poster image, below, to view or download past years' posters (8 x 10 inch, 100 dpi).

 

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                                                                                  Interesting statistics pertaining to Veterans from the US Census Bureau 
 
Veterans Day 


Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation in 1954 to change the name to Veterans Day as a way to honor those who served in all American wars. The day has evolved into also honoring living military veterans with parades and speeches across the nation. A national ceremony takes place at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

23.7 million
The number of military veterans in the United States in 2006.
(Source: Table 505 of the upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008.)

Female Veterans

1.7 million
The number of female veterans in 2006.
(Source: Table 505 of the upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008.) continued...


16%
Percentage of Gulf War veterans in 2006 who were women.
(Source: Table 506 of the upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008.)

Race and Hispanic Origin

2.4 million
The number of black veterans in 2006. Additionally, 1.1 million veterans are Hispanic; 292,000 are Asian; 169,000 are American Indian or Alaska Native; and 28,000 are Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. (The numbers for blacks, Asians, American Indians and Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders cover only those reporting a single race.) (Source: 2006 American Community Survey.)

When They Served

9.2 million
The number of veterans 65 and older in 2006. At the other end of the age spectrum, 1.9 million were younger than 35.
(Source: Table 506 of the upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008.)

8 million
Number of Vietnam-era veterans in 2006. Thirty-three percent of all living veterans served during this time (1964-1975). In addition, 4.6 million served during the Gulf War (representing service from Aug. 2, 1990, to present); 3.2 million in World War II (1941-1945); 3.1 million in the Korean War (1950-1953); and 6.1 million in peacetime. (Source: Table 506 of the upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008.)

430,000
In 2006, number of living veterans who served during both the Vietnam era and the Gulf War.

Other living veterans in 2006 who served in two or more wars:

  • 350,000 served during both the Korean and Vietnam wars.

  • 78,000 served during three periods: World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

  • 294,000 served in World War II and the Korean War. (Source: 2006 American Community Survey.)

3
The documented number of living World War I veterans who served with U.S. forces as of Oct. 2, 2007. (Source: Department of Veterans Affairs)

Where They Live

6
Number of states with 1 million or more veterans in 2006. These states are California (2.2 million), Florida (1.7 million), Texas (1.7 million), New York (1.1 million), Pennsylvania (1.1 million) and Ohio (1 million). (Source: Table 505 of the upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008.)

Education

25%
Percent of veterans 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree in 2006. (Source: 2006 American Community Survey.)


90%
Percent of veterans 25 and older with a high school diploma or higher in 2006. (Source: 2006 American Community Survey.)

Income and Poverty

$34,437
Annual median income of veterans, in 2006 inflation-adjusted dollars. (Source: 2006 American Community Survey.)


5.9%
Percentage of veterans living in poverty, as of 2006. The corresponding rate for nonveterans was 12.3 percent. (Source: 2006 American Community Survey.)

On the Job

11.1 million
Number of veterans 18 to 64 in the labor force in 2006. (Source: 2005 American Community Survey.)


Disabilities

6.1 million
Number of veterans with a disability. More than half this number (3.5 million) were 65 and older. (Source: 2006 American Community Survey.)

Voting

17.4 million
Number of veterans who voted in the 2004 presidential election. Seventy-four percent of veterans cast a ballot, compared with 63 percent of nonveterans. (Source: Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2004, at <http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/voting/006562.html>


Business Owners

14.5%
Percentage of owners of firms that responded to the 2002 Survey of Business Owners who were veterans. Respondent veteran business owners totaled 3 million. (Source: Characteristics of Veteran-Owned Businesses: 2002 at <http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/business_ownership/010337.html>)


68%


Percentage of veteran owners of respondent firms who were 55 and older. This compares with 31 percent of all owners of respondent firms. Similarly, in 2002, 55 percent of veteran-owned respondent firms with employees reported that their businesses were established, purchased, or acquired before 1990, compared with 36 percent of all employer respondent firms. (Source: Characteristics of Veteran-Owned Businesses: 2002 and Characteristics of Veteran Business Owners: 2002, at <http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/business_ownership/010337.html>)

 

7%


Percentage of all respondent veteran owners who were disabled as the result of injury incurred or aggravated during active military service. (Source: Characteristics of Veteran-Owned Businesses: 2002 and Characteristics of Veteran Business Owners: 2002, at <http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/business_ownership/010337.html>)

Benefits

2.7 million


Number of veterans who received compensation for service-connected disabilities as of 2006. Their compensation totaled $26.6 billion.
(Source: Tables 508 and 509 of the upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008.)


Jan. 21, 2007


The date of death of the last World War I veteran receiving compensation or pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs. (Source: Department of Veterans Affairs)

$72.4 billion


Total amount of federal government spending for veterans benefits programs in fiscal year 2006. Of this total, $34.5 billion went to compensation and pensions and $31.3 billion for medical programs. (Source: Table 508 of the upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008.)

 

I Salute You My American Veteran and Love You , Thank You
What is a Veteran?

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye.

Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg - or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's ally forged in the refinery of adversity.

Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem.

You can't tell a vet just by looking, but you can by the way they carry their body, proud and have every right to be proud to be an American Vet! They have earned more than they get credit for!

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She - or he - is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang, 

He or she is the one who held their dying friends hand in Vietnam, who got blown up by land mines, shot and crippled for life. 

He or she is the one who will face nightmares for the rest of their lifes, that no drug can stop

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another - or didn't come back AT ALL.

He is the drill instructor who has never seen combat - but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's backs.

He is the parade - riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket - palsied now and aggravatingly slow - who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being - a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say Thank You. That's all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.

Two little words that mean a lot, "THANK YOU".

"It is the soldier, not the reporter, Who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, Who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, Who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who keeps America Free even for  the protestor to burn the flag."

 



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