November 11th A Day for Remembering Those that Served

Each November 11th we are given a day to recognize the gift offered by our veterans, and their deep sacrifice to uphold our freedoms. Most of us can remember school assemblies, punctuated by silences and moving words that touched us on a profound level even as we were small children.

Even before we could truly understand the sacrifices made by our veterans, we certainly understood the need to stand up and honor them. At times we heard war stories, or musical representations of bugle calls and gunfire. We will not forget. We cannot forget.

Veterans Day was first recognized in 1919 as Armistice Day, as proclaimed by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. In 1926 Congress passed a concurrent resolution requesting the day be recognized every November 11th with ceremonies to honor our veterans. In 1938 this date became a legal holiday to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day”.

Then in 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower signed a law proclaiming this day to be a national holiday, with congress amending the act a few months later to recognize the date as Veterans Day. Now we recognize all those who have served and do serve in the military each November.

Many other countries recognize veterans each November 11th as well, though many refer to it as Remembrance Day. While there are differences from country to country, in general many of the ceremonies and events are similar.

Honoring the Fallen and All Who Served

The United States flag remains perhaps the most recognizable reminder of honor and duty on Veterans Day. Its dimensions and colors are strictly specified, and naturally there are guidelines for its use as well. The flag should never be dipped, touched to the ground, nor left in the dark if flown at night. Most of us recognize its appearance and posting as Veterans Day ceremonies begin.

A moment is taken to Pledge Allegiance to the flag, and the National Anthem rings out an audible symbol of patriotism. Remarks and quotations remind us of those veterans who we share our lives with, offering a moment to bring back the distant, war-torn memories and share them.

We recite essays and poetry to draw those memories out, and discuss them as if examining an ancient map of duty and valor. Finally the bugles ring out, playing Taps, and we all re-live that moment when fire ceased and peace began. By taking a moment of silence, we recognize and respect those lives we lost to gain this peace and freedom.

Although the flags and the anthems will differ in other countries, many other elements remain the same. Canada's Remembrance Day is considered very close to Veterans Day, although in Canada poppies are worn at this time. Gun salutes, trumpeting, and wreaths join poppies as widely recognized symbols of Remembrance Day in Canada.

The American Legion

The American Legion is perhaps the most well-known organization on Veterans Day. Chartered by Congress in 1919, this organization works toward helpfulness and support for all veterans. Although each individual post has their own motto and mission, in general all work to recognize and honor those who have served our country.

Each legion will offer social activities, member sports, community service opportunities, and a special benefits package that consists of agreements with local partners. These packages allow local businesses to honor the contributions of veterans and their families.

Within the American Legion, veterans are recognized every day and given the opportunity to come together in friendship. Members share memories of past service and enjoy present freedom. Legions are also strong supporters of other local groups, allowing veterans to continue to serve their communities. They provide leadership and mentorship, and help organize and run fundraising for other groups as well.

American Legions work with a wide range of fundraising ideas that are often specialized for supporting and recognizing the contributions of veterans. Exclusive retail products that help bring patriotism and spirit of honor and respect to all are available.

There is even specialized calendar software allowing individual legions to create their own customized photo calendars, and scratch cards are also very popular.

Lest We Forget

In Canada the poppy campaign is a well-known and recognizable herald in November. The poppy became an international symbol of remembrance in 1921, and is now worn on the collars of over half of Canada's population each year as a visible token of respect and honor.

Here, the focus is on those veterans who have been lost, and the poppies honor them as they flash vividly on coat lapels and scarves.

Poppies were first noted to grow over the graves of fallen soldiers in Flanders, France, over 110 years ago. These fields, which had been barren and empty before the battles, were covered in an ocean of blood-red flowers once the fighting ended.

Every Canadian child has heard In Flanders Fields, a poem written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, of the Canadian Army, so many years ago. This poem draws poppies together with vivid words, together painting a deep and moving picture of our fallen soldiers.

These days the Canadian Legion distributes poppies to raise money for veterans campaigns, as well as offering Remembrance Day ceremonies around the nation. Ottawa, Ontario, is host to the National Remembrance Day, although each community will have its own events and ceremonies scheduled.

In The Present

In 2008 the Senate has declared a National Veterans Awareness Week from November 9th through 15th to recognize the contributions of veterans. The Senate emphasizes the importance of broader educational programs to discuss and honor those contributions.

Special projects are underway as a result, including a Veterans History Project and several resources available on the Department of Veterans Affairs. Workshops for educators are also available nation-wide to help highlight the importance of education surrounding Veterans Day and the service of those currently in forces.

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