Veterans Day and Heroes

Grandpa, Beth, Olivia, and William pose beside the island on the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet, September 2006

Veterans Day is November 11th and for most schools in Illinois it is a holiday. But, Thursday morning found me at two schools on my day off. William had an honor breakfast and I was glad to attend. He is doing very well in seventh grade as he did in sixth grade. He is a solid young man, respectful and his character shines through. His school, Hubble Middle School, rewards students who display excellent character traits through their actions with ‘Hubble Huskie Coins.’  William had earned a ‘Huskie coin’ in the first quarter of the year and was being honored with other young men and women who had done something similar. Less than hour later, I was working as a crossing guard at Olivia’s school. When I can, I volunteer to be a crossing guard at Wiesbrook. It is always fun. After my crossing guard duty, I attended the Veterans Day flag ceremony.

It was impressive. A small group of veterans attended and were honored. Several parents attended, mostly moms, but a few dads were there and several grandparents. The students surrounded the flag pole and said the Pledge of Allegiance, sang the National Anthem, and showed their appreciation for the Veterans present. I stood next to a veteran from World War II. He told me he had served in Europe, landing at Normandy on D+11 with his tour lasting until the end of the war. I thanked him for his service and thought of my dad, a marine, and Mr. Weaver and silently thanked them for their service to our country.

In short, to all veterans, thank you for your service and your personal sacrifice for our country. You have made the days count. Thank you.

I am glad that William and Olivia attend schools that are teaching our children the importance of our national heritage. I struggle with having time off from school for holidays without explaining what the holidays are for and why we have them.  Veterans Day is the only holiday we have that does not always fall on a Monday as does Labor Day, Columbus Day, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday, President’s Day, and Memorial Day.

World War I ended when German, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States agreed to the Armistice and signed it at 5 AM on the morning of November 11, 1918. One of the agreements was a cease fire would go into effect six hours later at 11 AM (Paris time). So the legend was born and lives on that World War I ended on the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleven month. Regardless, the armistice ended the bloodiest and deadliest conflict in the history of humankind. It was brutal and it was over at 11 AM on November 11th.  A year later in 1919, President Wilson proclaimed the day a holiday to remember those who gave their lives in the service of their country and to remember the victory in World War I. In 1926, Congress established Armistice Day as a federal holiday and in 1954, after World War II and the Korean War, President Eisenhower signed legislation to rename Armistice Day Veterans Day, by which it is known today. It is a federal holiday and most schools have the day off, including mine but William and Olivia are in school learning about the reason for the holiday.

I came home after the ceremony with grand plans to clean the yard, grade papers, and complete all sorts of chores. I accomplished none of them instead I feel asleep on the floor in the sun with Ivy and got swept up in thinking of Veterans Day.

My favorite picture Grandpa and family with the Hornet in the background

A few years ago William, Olivia, Beth, and I went with Grandpa Weaver to his U.S.S. Hornet reunion. It was held in the Bay Area where the U.S.S. Hornet is anchored as a floating museum. It was an amazing trip and we were able to visit the ship and see parts of it with grandpa. He served on the Hornet from 1944-1946 during the last year of Pacific War. We had heard stories of moving planes on the deck, of the typhoon, and other great stories. But they came alive during our visit. We were able to ride the elevator from the flight deck to the hangar below – grandpa’s first trip ever! He told us they would play basketball on the hangar deck in the elevator area when not at battle stations and play baseball with balls wound form the yarn in their woolen socks. William asked what happened when someone hit homerun and grandpa answered, ‘make another ball!’ It was a magical trip and I am glad we were able to be a part of it with grandpa.

Olivia picked out this book and she and I have been reading at bedtime.

I had been thinking of how I would write this post for several days and had hoped that I would have two guest bloggers, but instead they wrote thank you notes to Grandpa Weaver with my fountain pen and I mailed them Friday. I wrote a thank you note as well. In our notes we thanked him for his service to our country and for the freedoms his service helped protect. As a historian I have always been interested in learning about World War II, but I never knew or understood the human story of men and women like John Weaver, Gus Barga, Harvey Hole, Carl Biking, the man I stood beside today, or millions of others who took a pause in their lives and served in the armed services as soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marines in the war.

In short, to all veterans, thank you for your service and your personal sacrifice for our country. You have made the days count. Thank you.   

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