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Talking with Sailors

Honoring Those Who Served:

Veterans Day

This Friday, November 11, marks Veterans Day. This day is a time to reflect on the sacrifices our military men and women have given to this nation.

Originally called Armistice Day, named after the armistice treaty signed on Nov. 11, 1918 effectively ending the Great War, World War I.

A war fought across Europe from July 1914 to November 1918, a war that spilled the blood of millions of military personnel and civilians from over a dozen countries.

On Nov. 11, 1919, the first Armistice Day was celebrated in Britain, its Commonwealth countries, the United States and other Allied nations - honoring those killed in the Great War.

... the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory ..." - President Woodrow Wilson, 1919

Just over 20 years later the world would be embroiled in another war, World War II, another war that would cost the lives of millions worldwide.

In 1954, the U.S. renamed the holiday Veterans Day to honor all military members from all conflicts both living and dead.

Throughout all the battles the U.S. has fought in, the one thing that has gone into every battle - the American flag. Flown from the masts of battle ships bombarding the beaches of Normandy, carried across Europe under the safe protection of a Soldier, and she hung above the Kehlstein in Germany just weeks before V-E Day and, today, Old Glory stands proudly above military bases around the globe.
Three Photo collage: Allies landing D-Day 1944; American flag on WWII warships; American flag on Guam beach landing.

All Hands Magazine sat down with veterans from the Armed Forces Retirement Home outside Washington, D.C. and asked them what the American flag means to them.

Don Egolf enlisted in the Army in 1944 during World War II. He went from basic training straight into combat in the European theater. He stayed until his retirement in 1966. At the retirement home, Egolf made sure his bed faced the window so he could see the flag and everyday he gives a proud salute to the banner of this nation.

Sue Meckley started her military career in 1952 in the Navy and then served in the Army from 1958 until her retirement in 1995. After her retirement Meckley lived out her dream and sailed the South Pacific for over two decades before moving to the retirement home. To this day the American flag still brings tears to her eyes.

Frank Laurence served in the Air Force from 1948 to 1968. Laurence served throughout the Cold War, and was proud to spend his career for God and country and flag. To this day the flag still gives him the same feeling of admiration.
Three Photos: American flag raising Mt. Suribachi 1945; flag raised at the Kehlstein, Germany 1945; flag Mt. Suribachi.

Linda Hardy was proud Sailor in the Navy. She served as a Navy WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) in 1968, but left the service to have a family. Hardy re-enlisted in 1976 and retired in 2005. During her 30 years of service, she was the first female enlisted of all the branches of service to obtain a doctorate degree while on active duty. Today when she sees the flag or hears the National Anthem she still feels that same sense of pride she had when she was a Sailor.

Richard Robinson served in the Army from 1948 to 1971. After losing his parents at a young age, Richard Robinson took on the Army and enlisted in 1948 for two years. He assisted Soldiers coming back from Europe and meet the ships at Ft. Hamilton, New York. Today the American Flag reminds Robinson that this is the country of his birth and the symbol of the nation he calls home.

John Orr left the state of Kansas in 1954 to serve in the Navy. Orr saw beyond the Kansas horizon until his retirement in 1973. Old Glory tells Orr this is where he belongs and that he is proud of where he belongs.

There are countless stories that our nation's heroes - our veterans - can tell us. This Veterans Day, take a moment to reflect and remember those who have served in the cloth of the nation helped ensure the freedoms that we have today.
Facts of Veterans Day info graphic

Veterans Day Infographic Courtesy of Navy History and Heritage Command
1918: On Nov. 11, 1918 fighting ceases during World War I when an armistice goes into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. This day is celebrated worldwide and comes to be known as the end of "the war to end all wars."
1919: President Woodrow Wilson proclaims Nov. 11, 1919 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.
1938: On May 13, 1938, Congress passes legislation making Armistice Day, Nov. 11, a legal Federal holiday.
1954: Veterans of World War II and the Korean War, in addition to veterans of World War I, are now being honored on Armistice Day. So, on June 1, 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs legislation changing the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
1968: On June 28, 1968, the Uniform Holiday Bill is signed, moving the observance of Veterans Day from Nov. 11 to the fourth Monday in October, effective 1971. However, many state did not agree with this transition and continued to celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11 because of its historic significance to Armistice Day.
1978: In 1978, the annual observance of Veterans Day returns to Nov. 11 after President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479) on Sept. 20, 1975.
The Flower of Remembrance: The red poppy became a symbol og remembrance among allied countries after Col. John McCrae, a surgeon with Canada's First Brigade Artillery, wrote a poem expressing his grief over the rows and rows of poppies among the graves of soldiers who had died on Flanders' battlefields during World War I. Today, veterans organizations around the U.S. distribute poppies as a tribute to those who gave their lives in service of our country.
WW I 1917-1918: 4,734,991
WW II 1941-1945: 16,112,566
Korean War 1950-1953: 5,720,000
Vietnam War 1964-1975: 8,744,000
Gulf War 1990-1991: 2,322,000
Global War on Terror 2001-Present: 1,425,113
More than 22 million veterans have served in the U.S. Armed Forces
Approximately 2.1 million veterans in the state of California, more than any other U.S. state.
1930: year the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs was created.
More than 2.2 million World War II veterans went to college on the G.I. Bill.
More than one million veterans are currently receiving education benefits from the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs.
More than 1,000 hospitals and medical centers the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs operate worldwide.