Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day, and it celebrated the end of World War I on November 11, 1918. Now, Veterans Day is a day to honor all veterans of all wars and the sacrifices they made to insure our freedoms.
When Germany declared war on the United States at the beginning of World War I, over 300,000 men in Illinois enlisted. Now we don’t have any survivors left of the World War I veterans.
Now we have fewer and fewer World War II veterans left. We have lost several World War II veterans from this area during the past two years.
World War I was also known as the Great War that was supposed to End all Wars. It ended when major hostilities ceased at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. November 11 is still known as Armistice Day in Europe.
President Woodrow Wilson gave the American Expeditionary Force Commander, General John “Black Jack” Pershing, full authority to set the date and time of the Armistice. “Black Jack” Pershing was a member of the Elks and the hour of 11 p.m. continues to have a special significance to the members of the Elks. At any evening Elks event, it is the time that all activity ceases and all members and guests rise, while the chimes ring eleven times and the Elks and guests give the “Eleven O’clock Toast” in recollection of deceased members.
I am not a member of the Elks, but I salute the Elks for their support of veterans. In 1917, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks organized and equipped the first two base hospitals in France, which were the predecessors of Mash Units. In 1918, the Elks built a 700-bed hospital and donated it to the Federal Government, the first of what would become Veterans Administration Hospitals. The Elks built a spectacular memorial to America’s veterans in Chicago in 1926 and more recently donated $1.22 million to the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D. C.
An act (52 Statute 351; 5 U. S. Code, Section 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the eleventh of November in each year a legal holiday – “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day.”
In 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen in the nation’s history, after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veteran’s service organizations, amended the act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 1, 1954, November 11 became the day to honor American veterans of all wars.
The United States of America was established upon the principle of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.
We salute each and every one of our veterans because they served our country with so much pride in a very special way to protect and defend our freedoms.
In my opinion, American citizens who disrupt military services, fail to give respect to our national anthem, disrespect and deface or burn our flag, and disrespect our veterans are committing treason against our country, the United States of America, and should be punished accordingly.
There will be special events in many towns and communities to honor our veterans on November 11. Please find out what is planned for your community, and take part in the activities. I am sure there will be parades and dinners in many Southern Illinois communities to honor our veterans, as well as many businesses will give them discounts on food or other purchases.
In Norris City the Michael Hillegas DAR Chapter, the Norris City Museum Association and the May Lodge No. 718 will be co-hosting a brunch for veterans and their families on Saturday, November 11, from 10:30 a.m. till noon at the Masonic Lodge on East Wabash Street, and then everyone will tour the Military Room at the Norris City Community Museum on East Main Street.
Don’t forget to put your American flag out on Saturday, November 11.
If any veteran would like to share their story of service with the readers of these articles or if any family members of veterans have the veteran’s story to share, please contact me at Edward Oliver, P. O. Box 456, Norris City, IL 62869, telephone 618-378-3176, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Remembering Norris City’s Coal Mine – Part 2” will be published in the next edition of the Villagers’ Voice.