In the year 2006, we will celebrate Veterans Day on Saturday, November 11. It used to be called Armistice Day, to commemorate the victorious end of World War I in 1918. An armistice that stilled the guns on the Western Front went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. A year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as a day in which to remember those American heroes who died in the service of their country.
Since then, we've had World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the First Gulf War, the war in Bosnia, and now the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are now about 24.9 million military veterans in the U.S., 8.2 million of whom are Vietnam-era veterans. While Americans consider ourselves to be a peaceful and peace-loving nation, we've been involved in so many wars, that our years of actual peace have been relatively few. And we ought not to forget the Cold War that forced us at enormous expense to be ready for war with the Soviet Union for almost 50 years.
Coming out of our public schools, most American youth know very little about our history, let alone our wars. Ask any of them to name American wars in chronological order and you'd be amazed at the answers you get. That's because our new multicultural school curriculum plays down American patriotism by playing down our military history. The U.S. military is still the nation's strongest bastion of patriotism, and that is why the multiculturalists are so anti-military.
Yet, history and reality teach us that we will be fighting wars for as long as our nation exists. And this realization has impelled many young Americans to defend their country by joining the military. Indeed, many homeschoolers have been drawn to military service because of their deep love of their country.
So, on Veterans Day, we honor all of those men and women who have fallen in service to their fellow Americans. We read about them every day in our newspapers, or see their faces on television. When we see American service men fighting in the streets of Iraq, being blown up in their vehicles, yet being kind to Iraqi children, we know what they are experiencing. The deadly facts of war do not change.
Congress declared November 11 a legal holiday in 1938. But in 1954, at the urging of veterans service organizations, Congress changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day. The Uniform Holiday Bill was signed in June 1968, creating three-day weekends by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. But in 1975, President Gerald Ford signed a law, which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to November 11. And so, Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, no matter which day of the week it falls on.
Each year a different veterans organization is the host. The host of the ceremonies this year at Arlington National Cemetery is the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Last year it was the American Legion. In 2004, it was the Non-Commissioned Officers Association. In 2003, it was the Army & Navy Union.
As for a chronology of American wars, we must begin with our War of Independence, fought from 1775 to 1783; the Barbary Wars against the Muslim pirates of North Africa (1801-5, 1815); the War of 1812 (1812-15) against Britain; the Mexican War (1846-48) fought over the annexation of Texas; the Civil War (1861-65) to preserve the Union; the Spanish-American War (1898); World War I (1917-18); World War II (1941-45); the Korean War (l950-53); the Vietnam War (1961-75); Invasion of Grenada (1983); First Iraq War to liberate Kuwait (1991); Bosnian War (1995-96); Afghanistan War (2002); Second Iraq War (2002-ongoing).
I have not even mentioned the Indian Wars, symbolized by Custer's Last Stand, or our intervention in Lebanon where 260 U.S. Marines were killed on October 23, 1983.
We celebrate Veterans Day to remind ourselves that we live in a dangerous world where enemy terrorists can strike at the very heart of New York, destroying two of the greatest skyscrapers ever built and murdering 3,000 Americans in just a few hours on one day, September 11, 2001. Our war against terror is going to be a long one, and we shall have to use all of our ingenuity and skill to win it. Our civilization hangs in the balance.
Veterans Day is a great chance to start a "military history" timeline... rent some great old war movies... send a postcard or email to a soldier... or start a unit study on the Armed Forces. Do you know if a colonel outranks a lieutenant, or is it the other way around? In which services do Academy graduates earn commissions as ensigns? What are the different responsibilities of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, Reserves, and National Guard? A good encyclopedia will answer these questions, and more that you might not have thought to ask.
You might even want to visit a military cemetery to let those who died protecting our freedom know that they are not forgotten and continue to live in the hearts of their countrymen.
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