Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Schriever Sentinel

Veterans Day — What it means

Col. James Ross, 50th Space Wing commander and Chief Master Sgt. Brad Shirley, 50 SW acting command chief, lead the Team Schriever formation during the Colorado Springs Veterans Day Parade Nov. 5. The parade route went down Tejon Street in downtown Colorado Springs. More than 100 different groups participated in the 11th annual parade. (U.S. Air Force photo/Dave Ahlschwede)

By Randy Saunders

50th Space Wing Base Historian

America has a long tradition of honoring those men and women who have sacrificed in the name of liberty and freedom. The life of a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine contrasts greatly from those of our civilian peers. While our friends and family attend colleges and universities, work “normal” hours and take vacations, members of the armed forces deploy to some of the most austere locations in the world. We face unimaginable dangers, hardship and family separations. We put our “normal” lives on hold to respond to a higher calling of service to a country we love, respect and for which we voluntarily agree to sacrifice all if needed.

After nearly 240 years of warfare from the New England colonies’ involvement in King Philip’s War against the Wamponoag, Narragansett and Nipmuk Indians, Americans (and others) believed that the horrors experienced during the trench warfare of the first World War finally would convince the world to lay down arms. “The war that will end all wars,” involved much of the world, to some degree, as the prominent military powers of Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary allied themselves against Britain, France, Russia and the United States who entered the conflict officially in 1917.

After four years of horrific warfare that ranged from North Africa and Mesopotamia to Eastern and Western Europe, the conflagration officially came to a close Nov.11, 1918 at 11 a.m., when Germany became the last of the belligerents to sign the armistice. The world proclaimed an “Armistice Day” and celebrated the cessation of most of the hostilities, especially in Western Europe. Some aggression continued in other regions, specifically in the former Russian Empire and in the Ottoman Empire.

The Treaty of Versailles formally ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers June 28, 1919. Other Central Powers that fought as allies of Germany were dealt with under separate treaties. A few months later, in November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first commemoration of the “Armistice Day.” By 1926, twenty-seven states had passed legislation marking the 11th of November as a state holiday. The United States Congress, on June 4, 1926, passed a concurrent resolution calling for the display of the United States flag on all government buildings on Nov. 11, and encouraged observances in schools, churches and other suitable places.

The road to a national Veterans Day holiday took several more years. On May 13, 1938, Armistice Day became a federal holiday. Sixteen years later, at the urging of veterans organizations due to the greatest mobilization of combat forces in United States history during World War II and the recent Korean conflict, the 83rd Congress amended the 1938 Act, striking out “Armistice” and inserting “Veterans.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Public Law 380 on June 1, 1954. Five months later, on Oct. 8, 1954, he issued the first “Veterans Day” proclamation.

The men and women of the 50th Space Wing proudly claim their places in the roll call of veterans whose sacrifices and contributions to America and her security have aided the liberation of millions of people from tyranny and desperation. From the skies over Normandy in 1944, to the deserts of Iraq, the mountains of Afghanistan, and hundreds of places around the globe, the veterans of the 50th have demonstrated for 70 years the commitment to excellence, dedication to service and integrity exemplified in America’s Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.

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