"I thank my God every time I remember you." - Philippians 1:3
It was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month in 1918 when the world celebrated as a treaty was signed ending what was to be "the war to end all wars" - World War I.
One year later, on what came to be known as Armistice Day, Americans came together to remember and honor the sacrifices of the men and women who served during the war. Soldiers who survived the war marched in parades and were honored by speeches and ceremonies recognizing their contribution to peace throughout the world.
Congress declared Armistice Day a national holiday in 1938. By this time, with unrest in much of the world, Americans realized World War I would not be the last war. After the Second World War, which was even bloodier than the first, Armistice Day continued to be observed. In 1954, Congress changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day to include veterans of all United States wars.
Today, Americans honor the service and sacrifice of our armed forces in the past as well as the present on Veterans Day. The official, national ceremony takes place at Arlington National Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. A color guard representing all the branches of the military executes "Present Arms" at the tomb, a Presidential wreath is placed on the graves, and a bugler plays "taps."
In communities across the county, there are parades, ceremonies and speeches. At 11:00 in the morning, Americans are encouraged to observe a moment of silence to remember those who fought for freedom.
A Closer Look
Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! ~~ Patrick Henry March 23, 1775
I'll be honest with you - it is quite uncomfortable for me to take a closer look at Veterans Day. I am ashamed to admit that it wasn't until recently that I began to understand and appreciate the great freedom we enjoy as citizens of the United States. I am even more ashamed to admit that I had little appreciation for its cost.
I grew up in an era when military service was not valued by a very vocal segment of our nation - much less honored. As a child, I witnessed night after night of students and others protesting the controversial Vietnam War on the evening news. Veterans who had put their lives on the line in service to their country were not welcomed home as heroes - but as outcasts.
It was a time when I found it hard to imagine why anyone would voluntarily choose to enter the military. Looking back, the only word for our nation's treatment of our veterans during this period is - appalling.
Outside the Cocoon
It wasn't until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 that I began to peek outside of my comfortable cocoon in the United States at life in countries with little freedom. I saw the cruel treatment of women in many Middle Eastern countries as they were beaten for appearing on the street without male escorts - even if their only reason for venturing out was to purchase food for their children. I saw how girls in these countries are denied access to education and have no choice in their marriage partners.
In Sudan, I learned of people - even children - tortured and murdered because they refuse to deny their faith in Jesus. In China, pregnant women are forced to abort their unborn children to comply with laws on family size.
In Central American countries, those who publicly disagree with governmental policies often "mysteriously" disappear - never to be seen again. The list of human rights violations and atrocities outside of the United States is extensive.
Yet, here I sit - in the wealthiest nation on the earth - free to attend the church of my choice, to own as many Bibles as I can afford, to choose my own husband (or choose not to marry), to vote for the leaders of my government and even write a letter to the editor of the newspaper when I disagree with the decisions they make.
And why can I enjoy these freedoms? Because the men and women in our armed forces understand that freedom has a cost. And since the birth of our nation, brave men and women have stepped forward, weighed the cost and chosen to lay down their lives in service to their fellow countrymen.
Thank you just isn't enough. We need to pass these truths on to future generations - and Veterans Day is a great place to start.
"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13
From "Beyond Groundhogs and Gobblers: Putting Meaning into Your Holiday Celebrations" published by Christian Publications, Inc. (August, 2004). For more information about Cyndy, visit www.realandsimple.com.