On Friday, Barry County school districts will honor area members of the Armed Forces through special Veterans Day assemblies, ceremonies and receptions. The national Veterans Day ceremony will be held on Sunday, and many local businesses and offices will observe the patriotic holiday on Monday. Veterans Day is an emotional holiday for me. My late grandfather served as a tank commander in Europe during World War II. Although he would rarely speak about his experience, when he did, my brothers and I were able to hear a first person account of what veterans have given to protect our rights and freedom.
The Veterans Day National Ceremony is held in Arlington National Cemetery each year. Arlington National Cemetery is also the home of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is directly connected to the annual holiday. In 1921, an American soldier, his name "known but to God," was buried on a Virginia hillside overlooking the Potomac River and the city of Washington, D.C. The burial of the unknown World War I soldier symbolized dignity and reverence for America's veterans. Similar ceremonies were conducted in England and France. The memorial gestures occurred on Nov. 11, giving universal recognition to the celebrated ending of World War I during the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Nov. 11, 1918 was also known as Armistice Day.
If World War I had been "the war to end all wars," Nov. 11 would likely still be called Armistice Day, but in 1939, World War II broke out in Europe. Over the next six years, 16 million Americans, including my grandfather, protected our rights and freedom by serving in the Armed Forces. In honor of those Americans who served during World War II, Congress, in 1954, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word armistice and inserting in its place the word veterans. Approval of the legislation made Nov. 11 a day to honor American veterans of all wars. On Oct. 8, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day Proclamation.
In his Veterans Day Proclamation last year, President Barack Obama said, "As we offer our sincere appreciation and respect to our veterans, to their families, to those who are still in harm's way and to those we have laid to rest, let us rededicate ourselves to serving them as well as they have served the United States of America." It is my hope that this week, all Barry Countians will find a way to show appreciation to local men and women who have selflessly served our great country. I know I am grateful for the service of all veterans. I deeply appreciate what each of them has done to protect my family, my freedom and my country.