Monday, November 10, 2014

Veterans Day Observed

Veterans Day window display at Central Library.

On Tuesday, November 11, 2014, crowds coming from all over the metro area, the country, and perhaps even some international visitors will converge in Birmingham for the 67th annual National Veterans Day parade which starts at 1:30 p.m. Birmingham can take pride in the fact that the National Veterans Day was originally established here in 1947. Raymond Weeks and other local veterans and interested parties established Veterans Day to replace Armistice Day which only focused on veterans of the Great War (World War I). National Veterans Day was signed into law in 1954 by President Eisenhower only seven years later. It was designated to take place annually on November 11 and to honor all U. S. veterans from all wars involving U. S. troops. Many parades take place on this date, but Birmingham’s parade is the oldest and is still the largest.

It is now the 100th anniversary of the Great War (World War I) and much attention is being given to its commemoration both in the United States and abroad. The Central Library display shown above is just one small example.

It was called the Great War because dozens of countries and many of their colonies were engaged in battle. It was the first war in which bombs were dropped from the sky killing civilians and soldiers alike. It was considered to be great, by many, as an ethical imperative and a mandate to counter what was widely considered to be evil military escalations from Germany including genocide. Another term for the war was “the war to end all wars,” which invoked the notion of Armageddon and the biblical prophecies of end times. “The war to end all wars” dropped in usage as it became evident that another major world-wide war was looming in the late 1930s.

One hundred years ago . . . the Great War.

Veterans Day is not a name you will likely see world-wide. Many nations, especially in Western Europe, use the expression, Remembrance Day, for a holiday to remember their fallen military citizens. Often you will see it in English, but you may just as often see it in translation for the particular non-English language spoken locally, but it still translates back into English as Remembrance Day.

Remembrance, Paddington Station, London
The Poppy Tradition

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

These are the first words of the famous poem, "In Flanders Fields," written by a Canadian soldier, John McCrae, following the death of a close comrade in 1915 at the horrific Battle of Ypres in Belgium. With the American entry into the war in 1917, Charles Ives wrote a song also titled, "In Flanders Fields," (based on the poem) that became famously popular in the States. Americans began wearing paper poppies on their lapels to honor their fallen countrymen and soon the tradition spread. Remembrance poppies are now worn all over the world.

Back to Birmingham . . .

To learn more about Tuesday’s parade, other Veterans Day events or its history, visit http://nationalveteransday.org/.

Whether you can attend the parade or not, be sure to take moments of silence to remember the men and women of uniform who have put their lives in peril to preserve our precious freedoms.

Veterans Day Observed, indeed.

David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

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