Stop and honor a vet today

Published 6:03 pm Monday, November 10, 2008

Today we celebrate those who have served our nation in times of war and peace — our veterans of military service.

We hold parades, and the president likely will place a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Here, in Selma, we’ll remember our vets with a service at Memorial Stadium, aptly named. Those who attend would do well to pause for a while in front of the stadium to read the names of those who gave their lives during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

This is a time to remember we still have men and women serving in various parts of the world, especially those in Iraq and Afghanistan, who face dangers most of us will never know.

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The older folks will remember this day as Armistice Day. Historians tell us Nov. 11 became known as this day in 1921, when an American soldier, whose name was “known but to God,” was buried on a hillside in Virginia across the Potomac River to Washington, D.C.

Earlier, the people of England and France had also buried an unknown soldier of World War I in their places of highest honor. For England it was Westminster Abbey. In France, it was the Arc de Triomphe.

All of the ceremonies took place on Nov. 11, which gave universal acknowledgement to the ending of World War I at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

But five years past before Armistice Day official received its name in America. Twelve years after that, Armistice Day became a national holiday. And the day might have kept its name, but in 1939 World War II broke out in Europe.

Ironically, it was an Alabamian who organized a Veterans Day parade to honor all vets on Nov. 11, 1947. Later a congressman from Kansas proposed legislation that changed the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

In 1954, President Eisenhower, a veteran general, signed a bill that proclaimed Nov. 11 as Veterans Day. In 1968, Congress made the holiday the fourth Monday in October, but Nov. 11 was so significant to so many Americans, Congress returned the observance of Veterans Day to its traditional date in 1978.

This is part of our shared history. It is fitting that we keep this day and remember those who have given service to their county.