Those of us who served stints in the United States military fully comprehend the distinctions when commemmorating Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
As a print and broadcast journalist assigned to the 340th Public Affairs Detachment a primary duty each year in the month of May was to provide coverage of the Fifth Avenue parade when the troops honored soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who in service paid the ultimate price with sacrifice to the country.
The Memorial Day task required a cadre of specialists who were privileged to report the day’s activity for American Forces Radio & Television Network.
Armed Forces Day also acknowledges service members in the same month but the mission of the specialized unit was to provide public affairs support from the deck of the USS Intrepid.
However, distinct from the previously mentioned days of military notice, Veterans Day in the USA and many countries in Europe and the Caribbean commemorate the memory of those who fought to “end the war to end all wars.”
Formally ending World War I “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect” the day first known as Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day here in 1954.
Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.
This year marks a century since the victory.
And while some consider the day ideal to capitalize on bargains on sale, or appropriate to dismiss the importance of the anniversary, the message delivered on the first anniversary by President Woodrow Wilson to his countrymen on the first Armistice Day still resonates as to how he felt the day meant to Americans.
From the White House, on Nov. 11, 1919 he issued this address.
“A year ago today our enemies laid down their arms in accordance with an armistice which rendered them impotent to renew hostilities, and gave to the world an assured opportunity to reconstruct its shattered order and to work out in peace a new and juster set of international relations. The soldiers and people of the European Allies had fought and endured for more than four years to uphold the barrier of civilization against the aggressions of armed force. We ourselves had been in the conflict something more than a year and a half.
With splendid forgetfulness of mere personal concerns, we remodeled our industries, concentrated our financial resources, increased our agricultural output, and assembled a great army, so that at the last our power was a decisive factor in the victory. We were able to bring the vast resources, material and moral, of a great and free people to the assistance of our associates in Europe who had suffered and sacrificed without limit in the cause for which we fought.
Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert. The war showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men.
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 nations.”
This centenary occasion marked wreath laying ceremonies here and throughout Europe. That Germany’s four-term chancellor Angela Merkel joined French President Emmanuel Macron and numerous heads of state in Paris to pay tribute to those who fought and died added dignity to the day. She is the first from her nation to make the trip to the hallowed ground where the armistice agreement was signed and the first leader from the defeated nation to set foot on the grounds where victory eluded her nation.
The 100-year anniversary celebration culminated at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the exact moment of the war-ending armistice — 11 minutes after the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
Here peace advocates marched alongside soldiers during a parade up Fifth Avenue.
Veterans 4 Peace exercised the right of promoting peace by staking a platform to denounce the military budget saying it is 10 times larger than that of other nations combined.
On the eve of the Nov. 11 anniversary date, they refused to glorify war pointing to conflicts in Yemen and Afghanistan and threatened relationships with Iran, North Korea and Saudi Arabia.
That protesters to these impending wars commemorated the date by offering awareness with discussion, a symposium and outreach to veterans add appreciation to all who served.
Hopefully, on the day, freedom was at the forefront in the minds of a majority.
As a veteran of the United States Army Reserve, it would be remiss of me to ignore the fact that also to be regaled is the Nov. 10, 1775 birthday of the United States Marine Corps.
To those who proudly boast the (Always Ready) —“Semper Fi” motto, with only one day grace period between historic dates, the custom of a 96-hour liberty period is deserved and merited.
Catch You On The Inside!