Jack Simpson - Veterans Day: New name, same sentiment

Another Veterans Day has come and gone. Locally, a sculpture depicting five soldiers supporting a globe was officially unveiled in a Veterans Day ceremony. Each community had its own way of remembering our veterans. Some people attended special programs in their churches.

Back when I was a kid, Nov. 11 was called Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I. The day was special in our small hometown because of the big parade and the speeches from local politicians.

Grandfather took us downtown, and we stood alongside main street to watch the local high school band and veterans march down the street. There was excitement, music, cheering and flag waving as old soldiers dressed in uniforms that still fit them came by, waving their own small flags.

My grandfather would point out some of the veterans, reminding us of their service and sacrifices to keep our freedom and protect our country. He explained that one day soon in our future we ourselves might be called to service and might march and be honored in this way. Our only experience with the war was through the movies, so we nodded as if we understood. We had fun watching and listening, even if we had only a slight idea of the personal contributions of local veterans to our nation's defense. Anyway, it was an exciting and inspiring day, and we were proud to be Americans.

For many of us watching that parade, Pearl Harbor brought our time to answer the nation's call sooner than expected. Many of us volunteered for service in World War II. Some of us returned and some did not, but those who did brought with them their own memories and stories of war.

We took our turns marching in the local parade on Veterans Day, and we carried on the tradition and helped renew our faith in our great country. We also marched to a new high school band, waved our own flags and looked into the faces of small children holding their grandpa's hand. We hoped we had made the world safe for Democracy; but, apparently, we didn't succeed. We did not want these kids to go to war. However, some of these children later fought in Korea and Vietnam, and their children and grandchildren may now be in combat in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Nov. 11 continues to be a special day to honor valor and duty, and to show patriotism and pride in our veterans and those who serve around the world. We hope small towns and big cities in America will continue to pause on Nov. 11 to honor friends and neighbors who have served or are serving the nation. We want each and every citizen to show their appreciation for those fighting to preserve freedom.

In 1954, Veterans Day became the official day to honor all veterans, not just those from World War I. This special day comes but once a year and, hopefully, everyone will participate in his or her own way. Maybe it will be by attending parades, memorials, or ceremonies on the courthouse steps. And, maybe it will be by just offering a silent prayer to all those who have sacrificed so much for each of us.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author, and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Sunday.