Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11, 1919 to be Armistice Day to observe the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice Agreement which ended World War I. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice). On November 8, 1954, the Congress officially changed the name of the holiday to "Veterans Day" to honor all the veterans who have war or peacetime service, not just those who served in WWI.

My Grandfather, Caudle Adkins, Sr, continued to refer to it as Armistice Day. He did so until he died in the Veterans Hospital in Huntington, WV in 1959. He had been one of the Doughboys who fought in France during "The Great War". He was seriously injured in a German gas attack, and I believe that injury eventually contributed to his death to lung cancer at the age of 64.

The grandson of a Civil War veteran, Papaw Adkins was one of many veterans in our family. He served in the U.S. Army as did Linda's grandfather, Cornelius Bowling (WWI) and her Dad, Burgess Bowling (WWII). There have been several Navy vets in our family as well. My Dad, Caudle Adkins Jr, served in the U.S. Navy during WWII as did his older brother, M.J. "Buster" Adkins. My younger brother, Bruce, also had Navy service during the Viet Nam era.

I joined the Air Force (also during Viet Nam era) but never saw overseas duty like my uncles who were also Airmen. Jerry Stidham served in the USAF during the Korean War, and Sammy Adkins did much of his Air Force peacetime service in France during the mid 50's. My brother in law, Danny Joe Bowling also served in the Air Force as did my nephews Chris Bennett and Dan Bowling.

The United States Marine Corps celebrated its 234th Anniversary just yesterday. We've had our share of proud "Leathernecks" on both sides of our family. Linda's Uncle, William Smith, died during his service to the USMC, and her brothers, Burgess Ray and Bob Bowling were also proud Marines. Our younger son, Benji, enlisted in the Marine Corps, and served with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, taking hostile fire in Kosovo, and doing earthquake recovery work and humanitarian aid in Turkey during his four year tour of duty.

Veterans are all around us. There are some well known and easily recognizable ones, like local Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Woody Williams. However, most of them are just average guys in every walk of life. They may come from various backgrounds, separate branches of the service, and differing military experiences, but they share one thing in common. They're Vets. Some made a career of it, some just served their hitch and came back home, but they all served. There is not much about them that makes them stand out in a crowd, but it is nice to have a day set aside when we can say thank you to those who have served, and for the Veteran to be honored for his or her service to our country.

Later today, I will be privileged to sit with Benji and twenty or thirty other veterans at Charles Russell Elementary School. There my grandson, Will, and his school mates will perform patriotic songs and readings, to honor the assembled veterans. The program will close as every student and teacher, will come by and shake our hands and thank us for our service. Just seeing those little ones and knowing that they live in freedom that has been provided by trained fighting men and women makes one thankful to be a small part of the big picture.

Veterans Day is one of those holidays that we sometime take for granted. It's that little holiday between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, when the banks are closed and their is no mail delivery. There are ceremonies here and there and even a few small parades, but it's not a day that the family goes out on a picnic, or gathers together for a huge feast at Grandma's house. There are no fireworks, but there should be. It is a day that is set aside to honor those who serve. The men and women who have served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard (and their families) have sacrificed to serve us and to protect the constitution of the United States which guarantees our freedoms and secures our way of life.

Freedom is never free, and for that, we can all thank the veteran. May we honor them all on this Veteran's Day.

"It Has Always Been The Soldier"
by Father Dennis O'Brien, Chaplain, USMC

It is the soldier, not the President,who gives us democracy.

It is the soldier, not the Congress,who takes care of us.

It is the soldier, not the reporter,who has given us Freedom of Press.

It is the soldier,not the poet,who has given us Freedom of Speech.

It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,who has given us the Freedom to Demonstrate.

It is the soldier,who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag that allows the protester to burn the flag.

Thank you, to all veterans, for your service to our country!

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