Since 1919, November 11th has been set aside as a day to thank those who have served and are serving in the military. "My message this and every day when I see a Vet is Thank You for your service. You can't imagine how that makes them feel. Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day, and the date was chosen for its symbolic significance November 11 was intended to observe the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, which marked the armistice of World War I," 1st Sgt. William Schwenke U.S. Army, told a capacity crowd gathered last week at the Soldotna Sports Center for an indoor/outdoor Veterans Day service.
The first Armistice Day in the U.S. occurred on November 11, 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson declared that "to us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with lots of pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory." Armistice Day was declared a legal holiday by Congress nearly 20 years later. In 1954 the name was changed to Veterans Day, following a national campaign to have the day honor all veterans, not just those who served in World War I.
In the U.S., Veterans Day was moved, by a 1968 act of Congress, to the fourth Monday in October. This shift of Veterans Day--as well as similar moves for Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, and Columbus Day--started in 1971 and was designed to create a three-day weekend for government employees. The Veterans Day long weekend, though, was resisted by many states, localities, and veteran's groups. By 1978 Veterans Day was again rescheduled for annual observance on November 11. "Veterans Day remains a related but unique holiday from Memorial Day, which falls on the last Monday of May each year. Veterans Day is to honor and observe the sacrifices made by all veterans, whereas Memorial Day is to honor the fallen--those who have given their lives for the defense of this country and the tradition of the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month of the year was just important a tradition to Veterans to have it changed just for a three day weekend," said Sgt. Schwenke.
In his address Sgt. Schwenke also included the families of Veterans in his remarks, "I can't imagine what our moms, wives, and parents go through when we are deployed. We get daily briefings on everything that is happening but at home our families have to be left in the dark throughout the whole deployment so to them on Veterans Day I want to say Thank you for your service to our country as well."
Nick Nelson of the Military Order of the Purple Heart was moved by the large turn out at the Soldotna Sports Center and expressed his appreciation to all the local restaurants and coffee shops that invite Vets in for a free meal or cup of coffee. John Raughter, communications director for the American Legion says he believes that Veterans Day is "a day to teach young people about the sacrifices made by their fathers and grandfathers, uncles and neighbors, and mothers and grandmothers.
It's about making sure that when the children of today hear the history lessons and traditions of our great country, they know that it would not be possible without veterans."
At Redoubt Elementary School National Guard Veteran John Mills had his 5th grade class write letters of appreciation to family members or friends who were serving or had served in the military. "I think Veterans Day is important so we can love and respect all of the people who have served to keep us free," commented Riva Lovett, one of Mr. Mills 5th grade students. "I've had some relatives that have been to war and just this last week I had a family member that died in Afghanistan," 5th grader CJ told the Dispatch in an interview, "My plan is to go into military service someday, actually that was what I told my kindergarten teacher," he said.