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Saluting our veterans

Donna Sue and I were in Panama City, Florida, this past week and the resort at which we were staying was hosting a military gathering. They all looked so young and physically fit. It was great to see them in their fatigues and their esprit de corps.

Too many times we don’t give credit where credit is due for the young men and women who volunteer for our armed forces. There is no longer the drafting of millions of Americans into our armed forces and there are no longer the large numbers that protect this nation from outside forces.

When I see those in uniform these days I am impressed by the way they look to the eye and the way they carry themselves in public. I think they are outstanding young men and women.

We also, as a nation, forget that many of them are veterans of three and four, maybe more, deployments in the Middle East, Africa, and other hotspots around the world where their very lives are on the line every day.

With Veterans Day coming this Saturday, we should pause in our busy lives to thank those who are serving today and for those who have served in all of their diverse ways.

As a matter of information, any thoughts as to why November 11 was chosen as Veterans Day. You could look it up, but it would be my pleasure to help.

The First World War ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. That date of November 11 was chosen as Armistice Day, a day to celebrate the end of that war. In the beginning, it was more of a remembrance and not a formal holiday until 1926 when President Calvin Coolidge was asked by a resolution of Congress to proclaim November 11 as a formal holiday by the name of Armistice Day.

It was in 1945 that an Alabama veteran, Raymond Weeks, was inspired to expand the holiday to include all veterans of all American wars. Weeks, himself, led the first Veterans Day celebration in Alabama and was proclaimed the “Father of Veterans Day” by President Ronald Reagan in 1982.

Before then, however, the Congress of the United States had written a bill establishing the holiday in 1954. The great Five-Star general and President Dwight Eisenhower signed the bill that year. Armistice Day would become Veterans Day.

You will notice that there is no apostrophe after the word Veteran, as in Veteran’s Day. There is reason for that. It was decided that this was not a day that belonged only to veterans, but a day for all Americans to celebrate. It is Veterans Day and what a holiday it should be for our nation.

I mentioned our young at the beginning and, unfortunately, wars are foisted upon the shoulders of young and physically able men and women. It is a somber request that is made of these young men and women who have their entire lives to live.

Having read many books about World War II, I am humbled by those who had barely begun to shave, at tender ages of 17 or 18, and how they were sent to faraway countries to battle other men of young ages. Those who haven’t been through those “hells” cannot begin to understand their experiences.

Last week’s column was about our 50th class reunion. At least 10 percent of our class went to Vietnam and some did not return.

The population of the United States is 323 million. About 1.3 million serve in the active armed forces. We owe them and all veterans our greatest gratitude. Thank you, veterans!