My father was one of 10 children; seven of them were in the armed services during World War II. The other three were too young, but they also joined up when they came of age. My mother was one of three girls, but her father was a lifelong soldier. So, Veterans Day was a special affair in my family. This year, the event will be celebrated Monday.
Veterans Day differs from Memorial Day in that Memorial Day is a day of remembrance of the men and women who died while in service to our country. Veterans Day commemorates all U.S. military veterans. Fortunately, none of the members of my family died during their service, although my father almost lost a leg in the Philippines.
Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day, commemorating the end of hostilities with Germany at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. The following year, President Woodrow Wilson recognized the day as being special. But, it wasn’t until 1938 that Nov. 11 became a legal holiday. Congress designated it as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’” (5 U.S. Code, Sec. 87a).
Over the years, the holiday was expanded to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died during World War I. Finally, in 1954, Congress replaced the word “Armistice” with “Veterans,” and it has been called Veterans Day ever since. Initially, ceremonies were performed at most Veterans Memorial Cemeteries, but that is no longer the case. In fact, no official ceremonies are planned in the San Joaquin Valley. To attend such an event, people will have to travel to the Vets Cemetery in Riverside, where my father is buried...