In the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice, or
temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations
and Germany in the First World War. Although the Treaty of Versailles was
signed June 28, 1919, officially ending "The Great War," it was
that hour in November 1918 that marked the end of war.
In November 1918, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the
first commemoration of Armistice Day. On May 13, 1938, the 11th of November
in each year was declared a legal holiday; "a day to be dedicated to the
cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice
World War II (1941-1945) saw the greatest mobilization of the U.S. military
in the nation's history (more than 16 million); 5.7 million more served in
the Korean War (1950-1953). As a result of lobbying efforts of veterans'
service organizations, the 83rd U.S. Congress amended the 1938 act, striking
the word "Armistice" in favor of "Veterans." President Dwight
D. Eisenhower signed this legislation on June 1, 1954. From then on, November
11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill whereby four national
holiday observances would fall on a Monday to ensure a three-day weekend
particularly for federal employees and to encourage tourism and travel.
Veterans Day was then celebrated on the fourth Monday in October with the
first observance effective October 25, 1971. This practice generated confusion
as many states chose to continue observance of Veterans Day on November 11.
In 1975, realizing November 11 carried historical and patriotic significance,
President Gerald R. Ford signed a new law returning the observation of
Veterans Day to November 11, beginning in 1978.
American Forces Press Service
By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2011 – Until the 1960s, veterans groups
used the red poppy as the symbol of Veterans Day. In Great Britain, it
The symbol comes from a poem, “In Flanders Fields,” written by Canadian doctor John M. McCrae in 1915.
The first two verses of McCrae’s three-verse poem read:
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.”
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.”
McCrae tended to the first victims of a German chemical attack on the
British line at the Belgian town of Ypres during World War I.
The fields of Flanders, where some of the most horrific battles
occurred, are now dotted with cemeteries filled with the war dead. If
you fly across France and Belgium, you can still see the remains of the
trench systems of the war.
The Great War of 1914 to 1918, called the first modern global
conflict, was an enormous divide for the world. Millions of service
members died in the conflict. Millions more civilians were also killed
or died of disease.
It truly was a world war. Troops fought in Turkey, the Balkans, East
Africa and the Middle East as well as in Russia and France. The war
caused the Russian czar to fall and allowed Vladimir Lenin to build what
would become the Soviet Union.
On Nov. 11, 1918, that war came to an end. At 11 a.m. the shooting
stopped. A war that saw 20,000 British “Tommies” die in 20 minutes at
the Battle of the Somme in 1916, was over. The war that saw 1,384,000
French “poilus” die, ended in the trenches that extended from
Switzerland to the Belgian coast. Americans, who joined the war in 1917,
lost more than 100,000 soldiers in the fighting.
The Germans had signed an armistice with the allies and to the
generations of The Great War, Nov. 11 remains Armistice Day. For
decades, veterans sold paper poppies to raise money for memorials and
for the families of those who died in the war.
But The Great War was not, as President Woodrow Wilson hoped, “the
war to end all wars.” World War II rose from its ashes, and millions
more died to stop the mad dreams of dictators from 1939 to 1945. The
U.S. Congress changed the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor
all veterans after more blood was spilled during the Korean conflict to
Congress moved Veterans Day, along with most other federal holidays,
to be celebrated on the closest Monday to the traditional date. But soon
Congress reversed itself on Veterans Day because of public pressure to
honor the powerful symbolism of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the
This year, national observance of “11-11-11,” will include a
presidential wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery and ceremonies
around the country.
Along with two world wars and Korea, Americans and their allies have
fought and died in Vietnam, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, Iraq,
Afghanistan and other places.
Today, the United States’ armed forces confront enemies around the
world. U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen
defend freedom on station wherever, whenever they are called.
Those serving today are ensuring that they do not ignore the final verse of McCrae’s poem:
“Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from falling hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”
Editor’s Note: This is a slightly revised version of a story initial published by the American Forces Press Service in 2005.
Did you know that at military funerals, the 21 gun salute stands for the sum of the numbers in the year 1776?
Have you ever noticed the Honor Guard pays meticulous attention to correctly folding the flag 13 times? You probably thought it was to symbolize the original 13 colonies, but it's not. Read on to learn.
THE 1ST FOLD of our flag is a symbol of life.
THE 2ND FOLD is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.
THE 3RD FOLD is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world.
THE 4TH FOLD represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in times of war, for His divine guidance.
THE 5TH FOLD is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, "Our Country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our Country, right or wrong."
THE 6TH FOLD is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.
THE 7TH FOLD is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through them that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or Without the boundaries or our republic.
THE 8TH FOLD is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see,the light of day.
THE 9TH FOLD is a tribute to womanhood and Mothers. For it has been through their faith, their love, their loyalty, and their devotion, that the character of the men and women who have made this country great, has been molded.
THE 10TH FOLD is a tribute to the father, for he too has given his Sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.
THE 11TH FOLD represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies in the Hebrews eyes, the of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
THE 12TH FOLD represents an emblem of eternity, and glorifies in the Christians' eyes, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
THE 13TH FOLD, or when the flag is completely folded, the stars are in the uppermost, reminding us of our nations motto, In God We Trust."
After the flag is completely folded, then tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington, and the Sailors and Marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for us the rights, privileges, and freedoms we enjoy today. There are some traditions and ways of doing things that have deep meaning. In the future, you'll see flags folded, and now you will know why. Share this with the children you love, and all others who love the symbol of "Liberty and Freedom!"
Of all the military bugle calls, none is so
easily recognized or more apt to render emotion than the call Taps. The melody
is both eloquent and haunting and the history of its origin is interesting and
somewhat clouded in controversy.
Taps began as a revision to the signal for Extinguish Lights (Lights Out) bugle call that was used as the final call of the day and as the name implies, it was a signal to extinguish all fires and lights. Up until the Civil War, the infantry cal for Extinguish Lights was the one set down in Silas Casey's (1801-1882) Tactics, which had been borrowed from the French. The music for Taps was adapted by Union General Daniel Butterfield for his brigade in July, 1862.
As the story goes, General Butterfield was not pleased with the call for Extinguish Lights, feeling that the Call was too formal to signal the day’s end, and with the help of the brigade bugler, Oliver Willcox Norton, wrote Taps to honor his men while in camp at Harrison's Landing, Virginia, following the Seven Days battle. These battles took place during the Peninsular Campaign of 1862. The new call sounded that night in July, 1862, soon spread to other units of the Union Army and was reportedly also used by the Confederates. Taps was made an official bugle call after the war.
Why the name Taps? The most likely explanation is that the name was borrowed from a drummer's beat. The beating of a bedtime roll-call called Tattoo by the drum corps would be followed by the Drummer of the Guard beating three distinct drum taps at four count intervals for the military evolution Extinguish Lights. Following the call, three single drum strokes were beat at four-count intervals. This was known as the "Drum Taps" or in common usage of soldiers "The Taps" or "Taps."
It is not clear how or why Taps became associated with funerals. However, it's earliest official reference for use at military funeral ceremonies is found in the U.S. Army Infantry Drill Regulations for 1891.
Courtesy of The American Legion
does not have an age requirement. In fact, sometimes it takes a child
to remind us how special our country and our flag are. Cody Alicea
is a 14-year-old middle school student in Denair, California. Last
year, during the week of Veterans Day, he made national news when an
official at his school ordered him to remove a U.S. Flag from his
bicycle. Incredibly, the school had banned national flags after
tensions arose between flag-waving Cinco de Mayo celebrants and
spectators bearing the Stars and Stripes. Cody was asked to remove the
flag, it was explained, “for his own safety.”
This did not set well with Cody, who comes from a family with a proud
tradition of military service. People from across the country rallied
around Cody’s cause and it wasn’t long before the American Legion Riders
and other patriots were escorting Cody to school – surrounded by
hundreds of flags. To be fair, the school realized the error of its
policy, retracted the ban and quickly issued an apology. But this was
clearly a case of a student educating his educators. Adults who come up
with such misguided policies are usually not trying to be unpatriotic.
They just need a reminder about the exceptional nature of this country
and its flag. And that’s why Flag Day is so important.
The Second Continental Congress adopted the flag of the United States by
resolution on June 14, 1777. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a
proclamation officially establishing June 14th as Flag Day. Although it
is not a federal holiday, it is observed in communities across our
great nation. Flag Day isn’t simply about honoring a particular design
on a cloth. It is more about taking time to reflect on our freedoms and
the principles of our great nation…for which that flag stands. The flag
is a reminder of who we are. In a broadcast shortly following the
Sept. 11th attacks, Meet the Press host Tim Russert raised the ire of
many in the media when he wore a flag pin on the air, as he grilled a
Apparently, Mr. Russert’s show of patriotism somehow compromised his
objectivity in the minds of some. “Yes, I am a journalist, but first I
am an American citizen,” the late host told The American Legion Magazine
in 2007. Tim Russert knew that one of the reasons he was able to be a
journalist and ask tough questions of the powerful is because he was in a
country that allowed him to do so. It is the same reason that we are
able to be police officers, farmers, engineers, office workers, business
owners or any other occupation of our choosing. America is not only
the land of the free, it is the land of opportunity. The flag represents
all that America has to offer.
It is our hope. Many Americans were offended when a misguided pastor
desecrated a Koran. Americans everywhere should also be offended when
someone desecrates our flag. Fortunately, legislation is being
considered in Washington, which would give Congress the constitutional
authority to protect Old Glory from desecration.
Retired Army Major General Patrick H. Brady earned the Medal of Honor
for his heroism in Vietnam. He said, “Many Americans have raised their
right hand and sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution from
all enemies, both foreign and domestic. We believe that all Americans
who put their right hand over their heart and recite the Pledge of
Allegiance take that same oath. Both the oath and the pledge are taken
in the presence of Old Glory to emphasize that our Flag is the symbol of
our Constitution. We believe that – we the people – must exercise our
right to rule by ensuring that the Court’s decision on flag-burning is
not irrevocably fixed.” And that decision – a 5-4 majority in the 1989
Supreme Court case Texas v. Johnson – invalidated flag protection laws
that existed in 48 states and the District of Columbia. It is up to us
to remind Congress that the flag belongs to “We, the People,” and the
people want the Stars and Stripes protected.
Gatherings such as this are important, and we should always remember
that it is much easier to fight for our flag in the halls of Congress
than it was in the halls of Montezuma and other places where Americans
have bled for Old Glory. It is much easier for us to honor the flag in
our comfortable surroundings than it was for Mike Christian. Mike
Christian was a naval aviator held in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp
with future Senator John McCain.
One day, using a bamboo needle and some cloth scraps he had gathered,
Mike made a small U.S. Flag, which he sewed inside his shirt. Each
morning, Mike would remove his shirt, and the POWs would say the Pledge
of Allegiance to the flag. When it was discovered by the guards, they
beat him severely. “After things quieted down, I went to lie down to
sleep,” Senator McCain recalled. “As I did, I happened to look in the
corner of the room. Sitting there beneath a dim light bulb, with a piece
of white cloth, a piece of red cloth, another shirt and his
bamboo needle, was my friend, Mike Christian. Sitting there, with his
eyes almost shut from his beating, making another American flag. He was
not making that flag because it made Mike Christian feel better. He was
making that flag because he knew how important it was for us to be able
to pledge our allegiance to that flag and our country.”
As Cody Alicea, Tim Russert and Mike Christian have reminded us,
patriotism is exhibited by Americans of all ages and under all
conditions. And while it’s easy to be outraged over those who disrespect
our country, our beliefs and our flag, it’s important and more
rewarding to remember those who inspire us with their pride. Thank you
for being here. God Bless America and God Bless our Flag.