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November 5, 2008 > Remembering our veterans

Remembering our veterans

By Janet Grant

In Flanders fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row...

Colonel John McCrae's haunting words written on a Belgian battlefield became the most famous war poem of World War I. In part because of the popularity of McCrae's In Flanders's Fields, the blood-red poppy became forever a symbol of Armistice Day - the international day of remembrance.

An armistice or truce was declared on November 11, 1918 signaling the end of hostilities between Germany and the Allied Nations of World War I. Although World War I officially ended on June 28, 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, actual fighting ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Armistice Day as November 11 was officially known, became a holiday in the United States in 1926 and a recognized federal holiday in 1938. On June 1, 1954, President Eisenhower officially changed the name to Veterans Day to honor the contributions of all American veterans in all wars.

On Veterans Day, official ceremonies are observed in towns all across America with exhibits, special tributes, and stirring parades. Nationally, ceremonies center on the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. These unknown soldiers are symbolic of all Americas' heroes who have given their lives in service to their country. They are honored on this day with a tribute from a grateful nation with a salute from military color guards representing all branches of military service and the laying of a presidential wreath.

From the first Armistice Day, a celebration of peace at the end of World War I, to Veterans Day - the observance has evolved into a time for honoring living veterans, men and women, who have served in the military during wartime or peacetime. Even 88 years later, the anniversary of the armistice is still celebrated among all allied nations. Along with the United States, the holiday is observed in the Commonwealth of Nations, and many European countries, and whether known as Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, Poppy Day, or Veterans Day, November 11 continually commemorates the selfless contributions of veterans in all wars since the War To End All Wars.

On Veterans Day 2008, we are again reminded of the continual sacrifices made by the nations' veterans and their families. The cost of war cannot be calculated when it comes to the great loss incurred by those who make the ultimate sacrifice to keep our nation free. On this national day of observance we honor and remember all our veterans.

And the symbolic poppy, officially adopted as the flower of remembrance in the United States, France, and the Commonwealth of Nations, is still linked with the voices of those who have died in war reminding us -

...If ye break faith with us who die - we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields.

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