Veterans Deserve Big Turnout on Nov. 11

05Nov09

Big FlagNext Wednesday, Nov. 11, Wakefield, Massachusetts observes Veterans Day with ceremonies beginning at 11 a.m. in the Galvin Middle School Auditorium.

While Memorial Day each spring focuses on honoring deceased veterans, Veterans Day is intended to honor and thank all US military personnel who served in all wars, particularly living veterans and those currently serving in the armed services. As such, it is fitting that Wakefield’s Veterans Day observance each year is held in the school named for Wakefield native John Rogers Galvin. General Galvin’s 44-year military career included two tours of duty in Vietnam, and he ended up as NATO‘s Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and Commander in Chief, United States European Command from 1987 to 1992.

Galvin Middle School - Wakefield, MAOver the last few years, Veterans Day observances in Wakefield have been well-attended. Here’s hoping for a big turnout again this year. It is not one of those holidays observed on the nearest Monday in order to create a long weekend. Veterans Day is rooted in the armistice that ended World War I “on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.”

This year, Veterans Day falls on a Wednesday, and unfortunately it’s one of those holidays that not all employers grant to their workers. Some people exchange Veteran’s Day for the Friday after Thanksgiving, making for a long holiday weekend later in the month.

Even so, there are more than enough people in Wakefield who do have the day off to fill most of the Galvin auditorium’s 900 seats for an hour next Wednesday. Even those of us who are not veterans have parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles who served in the US military who deserve recognition and respect.

This year, there is another way to honor veterans. Making a donation to the World War II Memorial Committee in the name of a veteran of any war would be a great way to observe this Veterans Day and help replace the present decayed wooden memorial on the common.
World War II Memorial
Those wishing to make donations toward the new World War II Memorial should send them to: Town of Wakefield, c/o Town Administrator, William J. Lee Memorial Town Hall, 1 Lafayette St., Wakefield, MA 01880. Make checks payable to “Town of Wakefield World War II Memorial Fund.”

Some have suggested that holidays like Veterans Day glorify war. In fact, the opposite is the case. The day was originally called Armistice Day, commemorating the armistice or truce that ended World War I, optimistically dubbed “the War to end all wars.”

In officially proclaiming the holiday in 1926, the United States Congress observed that Nov. 11, 1918 “marked the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed;” and “It is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” Those are hardly words that glorify war. The name was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954, in order to include veterans of all wars.

Don’t think of Veterans Day observances as an occasion for somber speeches. While there is certainly a solemn aspect, veterans from Wakefield American Legion Post 63 put together a fine program each year.

Wakefield Veterans Day observances include performances by Wakefield High School’s award-winning musicians and by the Wakefield Choral Society. One of the most touching features of recent Veterans Day observances has been the playing of a medley including theme songs from each US military branch – the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. As each theme song is played, Wakefield veterans in attendance who served in that branch stand to the applause of the audience.

No matter how people feel about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Veterans’ Day should not be a referendum on policy, over which soldiers have no control. Veterans’ Day is a time for all patriotic Americans to set aside their political differences and join together in honoring our veterans and those on active duty.

It is, quite literally, the least we can do.

[This column originally appeared in the November 5, 2009 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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