CENTERVILLE — Dear Editor,
Thank you all for being here to honor all of our citizens who have served our nation.
I would especially like to extend my appreciation for the Boy Scouts of America for their role in raising the flag of our nation.
Also, let’s give appreciation for the Centerville High School band.
Moreover, let’s thank the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War Color Guard for being here at this ceremony of honor.
But before I start with my main comments I believe it is important to remember our fellow citizens along the east coast who since Oct. 29 have been dealing with the effects of Hurricane Sandy. An estimated $50 billion dollars in damage has occurred in the affected areas. Some 113 people have lost their lives due to this storm. Many are still without power in the New York’s Staten Island and areas of New Jersey.
It is gratifying to read that many veterans have taken the lead in helping out their fellow citizens as Red Cross volunteers or as good neighbors. Also, the active duty components of our armed forces are lending a helping hand to those in need. This incident clearly shows how the military can help our fellow Americans. Please remember to contribute to the American Red Cross for the relief effort.
When did Veterans Day really begin? Some point out that its origin was from Armistice Day Nov. 11, 1918 when the guns of World War I fell silent in Europe. However, I feel that perhaps we need to look back further in our history to the time frame just after the American Civil War.
Union veterans of the war formed an organization called the Grand Army of the Republic. Its zenith was in 1890 when it boasted a membership of 490, 000. The GAR held an annual encampment from 1866 to 1949. One of the largest was held in Detroit, Mich. in 1914. Members included General Ulysses Grant and a junior officer named William McKinley. Both would become presidents of the United States.
The group was politically active as well. During these years the organization lobbied for obtaining pensions, compensation for injuries and other benefits. Moreover, the main organization did its best to obtain voting rights for the black veterans. But many black veterans did not receive the compensation that they deserved or the right to vote because of the racial inequality issues of the time.
The GAR had posts located in many areas but were concentrated in the Midwest and the North east. It is interesting to come upon the buildings of these organizations in various locations. Here veterans shared stories of a terrible war that resulted in some 600,000 deaths with two thirds of these deaths from disease and environmental conditions. The last member of the GAR passed on in 1956.
In the decades following World War I the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion created many posts around our nation. The purpose was to honor the fallen and to commemorate the end of WWI which occurred on Nov. 11, 1918. This date would be called Armistice Day.
World War II resulted in largest influx of members in these organizations. A new focus or special day was needed for these veterans and also for the Korean War veterans. On Oct. 8, 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day Proclamation to honor all veterans who honorably served their country in peacetime or during times of War. Those conflicts included the following.