But Memorial Day, which is observed on the last Monday in May, was originally set aside as a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service to their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.
While those who died are also remembered on Veterans Day, which is observed on Nov. 11, Veterans Day is intended to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military — in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served — not only those who died — have sacrificed and done their duty.
Under federal law a veteran is any person who served honorably on active duty in the armed forces of the United States. There are other definitions, while unofficial, that are very appropriate:
n “A veteran is one who has risked life and limb to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy and is proud to have done so.”
n “A veteran, whether active duty, discharged, retired, reserve or National Guard, is someone who at some point in their lives, wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount of up to, and including, their life.”
Zell Miller, a former governor and U.S. senator from Georgia, points to the essence of what the soldier gives to us as Americans: “It has been so truthfully said that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gives the protester the freedom to abuse and burn that flag.”
We thank all veterans for their service, recognize their contributions to our national security, and appreciate that all who served have sacrificed and done their duty. Families of veterans should also be recognized and appreciated, as they too have sacrificed.
Veterans Day originated when Raymond Weeks of Birmingham, Ala., organized a Veterans Day parade for that city on Nov. 11, 1947, to honor all of America’s veterans for their loyal service. Later, U.S. Rep. Edward H. Rees of Kansas proposed legislation changing the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor all who have served in America’s Armed Forces. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming Nov. 11 as Veterans Day and called upon Americans everywhere to rededicate themselves to the cause of peace. He issued a Presidential Order directing the head of the Veterans Administration, now the Department of Veterans Affairs, to form a Veterans Day National Committee to organize and oversee the national observance of Veterans Day.
The Veterans Day National Ceremony is held each year on Nov. 11 at Arlington National Cemetery. At 11 a.m., a Color Guard, made up of members from each of the military services, renders honors to America’s war dead during a tradition-rich ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The president or his representative places a wreath at the Tomb and a bugler sounds “Taps.” The balance of the ceremony, including a “Parade of Flags” by numerous veterans service organizations, takes place inside the Memorial Amphitheater, adjacent to the Tomb.
On Nov. 11 at 11 a.m., I ask you to join me in front of the Courthouse as we come together as a community to remember, honor and pay tribute to our nation's heroes — heroes who set aside their personal safety to defend and protect their families, their community and their nation against those who would threaten our way of life.
I would like also to draw your attention to the Courthouse Show of Flags. There are now more than 100 American flags on 10-foot poles that have been purchased in honor or memory of veterans. These flags are displayed in front of the Courthouse each patriotic holiday. If you are interested in a flag, please contact or visit the Veterans Service Office at 423-728-7100.
As Americans, we could not enjoy the blessings of freedom and liberty without the service of these men and women fulfilling an extraordinary duty. On Veterans Day, we remember and honor all those who wore the uniform. Their quiet courage, sacrifice and commitment deserve our deepest appreciation and respect!