Veterans Day, as we all know by now, will be celebrated and observed on Monday, Nov. 11. As a veteran myself, I am very proud to have served.
I am more proud of the many accomplishments that have been established by our gallant men and women in uniform in time of war and of peace, plus all the sacrifices endured by those no longer with us. Our sorrows tend to reach them and bless them all and their families.
Way back in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as Armistice Day to remind Americans of the many tragedies of war. World War I had just ended a year prior at 11 a.m. Nov. 11, 1918. What a coincidence - the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
Two years later, on Armistice Day, an unknown World War I soldier was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
In 1926, Congress passed a resolution calling for the observance of Armistice Day in our schools and churches. At that time, the hope was that World War I was the war to end all wars. Our hopes were dashed as World War II broke out and more than 400,000 of our brave American troops died in that war alone.
After the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 when more than 36,000 Americans were killed in action, Congress considered making Armistice Day a day to also commemorate veterans of all wars, not only World War I.
In 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming the holiday as a remembrance of all wars and changing the holiday name to Veterans Day.
A law passed in 1968 moved the Veterans Day celebration to the fourth Monday in October. However, the original date of Nov. 11 was so significant that 10 years later it returned to its original date.
In 1958, two more unidentified American soldiers were laid to rest next to the Unknown Soldier of World War I. One of the soldiers was killed in World War II, and the other in the Korean War.
In 1984, a fourth unknown soldier was added to the tomb. He had died in the Vietnam War. However, in 1998, the Vietnam soldier's identity was discovered through DNA, and his remains were returned to his family. The crypt that was reserved for the unknown soldier from the Vietnam War is presently empty.
Women in the armed forces in war and in peace have also been a major part of Veterans Day and have demonstrated consistently their important roles and sacrifices also and should never be forgotten - and lately have not been, as their roles have been expanded and equaled to their male counterparts.
There will be many Veterans Day celebrations locally and nationally including parades and speeches throughout our Valley and in most towns and cities in the United States. The focal point, however, will continue to be the Tombs of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery and the amphitheater surrounding it.
Every year, special services begin at 11 a.m. with two minutes of silence. After the playing of taps, President Obama will place a wreath at the tomb. A color guard procession and several speeches, usually one of them by the president, will follow. Approximately 5,000 people attend this ceremony annually.
Sometimes Veterans Day gets confused with Memorial Day. Veterans Day really gives a great opportunity to celebrate the bravery and many sacrifices of all U.S. veterans, living and deceased. I believe all of us, as citizens, should have a knowledge and history of this sacred holiday. It's simply a way of recognizing those who have performed so nobly for our country.
Whited is a Tribune Chronicle columnist.