Veteran’s Day Remembrances: Then, Inbetween and Now, The War at Home

A temporary end to the “hostilities” of World War I happened on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. The “Treaty of Peace” at Versailles was not official until June 1919. Congress “hoped” that peace would never again be severed, but today we have The War at Home and are remembering all that came between.

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In 1919, November 11th was designated as “Armistice Day.” In 1926 Congress officially recognized the end of WWI:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed…

The 11th of November became an official U.S. holiday known as Armistice Day in May 1938. After WWII President Dwight D. Eisenhower the first “Veterans Day Proclamation,” and has been known as Veterans Day since.

The Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.

The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.

Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Remember Mrs. Alda Collins? In August 2012 she was 110 years old. Her husband, William F. Collins served in WWI and died in 1976 at the age

Alda H. Collins

Alda H. Collins

of 81. They had been married for 52 years. Since her husband’s death, Mrs. Collins received $36 a month in benefits from our egregiously ineffective Department of Veterans Affairs. When she was 106 years old and still living in her own home in Pennsylvania, the VA told her son, James Collins, that she should be receiving more but it would take six months to a year to get the paperwork done. It took FOUR YEARS.

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For six years, her son paid her expenses but it wasn’t easy. In August 2012 her $36 check was increased to $1,000.

Mrs. Collins left her earthly home a year later on September 29, 2013 at the age of 111. Reading her obituary, you can see that she touched many in her long life:

At 111, she was the 53rd oldest person in the world, the 17th oldest person in the United States, and the second oldest in Pennsylvania, Theodore Roosevelt was President at the time of her birth, and she lived to see 19 other presidents (Reagan was her favorite) serve the office. During the ’50s she served President Nixon a cup of coffee in Somerset, she voted during the women’s rights movement in 1919 and didn’t miss a vote after that, and her husband was a World War I veteran.

In 2012, at age 110, her son said she could still walk with a walker and feed herself.

The world’s last WWI veteran is believed to be a UK woman, Florence Green who died on February 19, 2012. She would have been 111 just a few days after her death. She served as a “mess steward at RAF bases.”

The world’s last known WWI combat veteran was also a Brit. Claude “Chuckles” Choules died May 2011 in Australia at the age of 110. Mr. Choules was the last survivor to have witnessed “the surrender of the German fleet in the Firth of Forth in November f1918, then the scuttling of the fleet at Scapa Flow.”

America’s last surviving veteran of WWI was Frank Buckles. He died at age 110 on February 27, 2011. Mr. Buckles lied about his to enlist and it took several times to before the Army finally allowed him to enlist.

Today in America, we still do not have a national World War I memorial.

The Allies stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. Here American troops hit the water from one of the landing craft. Soldiers on shore are lying flat under German machine gun fire. Coast Guard photographer Robert F. Sargent took this view from a landing craft.

The Allies stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. Here American troops hit the water from one of the landing craft. Soldiers on shore are lying flat under German machine gun fire. Coast Guard photographer Robert F. Sargent took this view from a landing craft.

The best estimates are that 1.7+ million veterans of WWII are still alive of the 16 million who served. It is, 270,000 WWII veterans died in 2011, an average of 740 per day.

The VA has an interactive map dated 2011 showing veteran populations. Scroll over your state to see the numbers of veterans in a specific state. My state of Oklahoma, in 2011, is showing 19,505 WWII Veterans, 33,486 Veterans from the Korean War, 121,259 from the Vietnam War, and 102,923 from the Gulf War.

For a remembrance of Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941, see the U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club at the USS Arizona Memorial here.

Here’s a look at who fought in past U.S. wars and who’s still alive today (courtesy of CNN and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs):

American Revolution (1775-1783) 
U.S. servicemembers: 184,000-250,000 (estimated)
Deaths: 4,435
Wounded: 6,188
Last veteran: Daniel F. Bakeman, died in 1869 at age 109

War of 1812 (1812-1815) 
U.S. servicemembers: 286,730
Deaths: 2,260
Wounded: 4,505
Last veteran: Hiram Cronk, died in 1905 at age 105

Indian Wars (approximately 1817-1898) 
U.S. servicemembers: 106,000 (estimated)
Deaths: 1,000 (estimated)
Last veteran: Fredrak Fraske, died in 1973 at age 101

Mexican War (1846-1848) 
U.S. servicemembers: 78,718
Deaths: 13,283
Wounded: 4,152
Last veteran: Owen Thomas Edgar, died in 1929 at age 98

Civil War (1861-1865) 
Union servicemembers: 2,213,363
Confederate servicemembers: 600,000-1,500,000 (estimated)
Union deaths: 364,511
Confederate deaths: 133,821 (estimated)
Union wounded: 281,881
Confederate wounded: Unknown
Last veteran: John Salling, died in 1958 at age 112

Spanish-American War (1898-1902) 
U.S. servicemembers: 306,760
Deaths: 2,446 (385 in battle)
Wounded: 1,662
Last veteran: Nathan E. Cook, died in 1992 at age 106

World War I (1917-1918) 
U.S. servicemembers: 4,734,991
Deaths: 116,516 (53,402 in battle)
Wounded: 204,002
Last veteran: Frank Buckles, died in 2011 at age 110

World War II (1941-1945) 
U.S. servicemembers: 16,112,566
Deaths: 405,399 (291,557 in battle)
Wounded: 670,846
Estimated living veterans: 1,711,000

Korean War Memorial

Korean War Memorial

Korean War (1950-1953) 
U.S. servicemembers: 5,720,000
Deaths: 54,246 (36,574 in theater)
Wounded: 103,284
Estimated living veterans: 2,275,000

Vietnam War Memorial

Vietnam War Memorial

Vietnam War (1964-1975) 
U.S. servicemembers: 8,744,000 (estimated 3,403,000 deployed)
Deaths: 90,220 (58,220 in theater)
Wounded: 153,303
Estimated living veterans: 7,391,000

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Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991) 
U.S. servicemembers: 2,322,000 (694,550 deployed)
Deaths: 1,948 (383 in theater)
Wounded: 467
Estimated living veterans: 2,244,583 (2009 estimate, may include veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan)

Iraq

Iraq

I haven’t found figures for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that I feel comfortable with, but as of May 2013, CNN has this report.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan

In February 2013 the Washington Post published The Faces of the Fallen, those service members who died in Operation Iraqi and Operation Enduring Freedom.

It is difficult to know what to say to today’s Warriors still fighting, or trying to fight, under appalling Rules of Engagement against nothing less than savages with no honorable U.S. leadership at the top. The trials of families waiting for their loved ones to return, most after multiple deployments, is hard to imagine and it is incomprehensible to understand the recovery of the wounded who will suffer for years, if not the rest of their lives due, in some part, to not being allowed to fight to win from the outset.

I thank all who have served and their families. Please don’t let anyone convince you that we are not a grateful nation. We are, and for each of those few who side emotionally with the enemy, there are hundreds of thousands who understand and support you for making the United States the home of the free because of the brave.

The video below is Josh Groban singing a song he wrote, The War at Home

Fallen brother
He’s a fallen husband
He’s about to be woken in his hospital bed
He doesn’t want to rest
He just wants to run
And he’s tired of being told that he’s the lucky one

Caped crusader, she’s a new born leader
But you should see her when her daughter’s on the phone
And she wipes the tears away and she laces up because
there’s still Hell to pay
And it sure feels feels like Hell today
Today

And she says…
You see these hands?
They’re bruised and brown
They’re yours alone
Hold on love
We’re still going down
Hold on love
We’re still fighting
At home
The war at home

Innocence behind his broken expression
He’s a child of mercy
He’s our unlearned lesson
And he’s trying to wake up from this wilderness his world has
now become
He’s reaching out to those he’s running from

And he says…
You see these hands?
They’re bruised and brown
They’re yours alone
Hold on now
We’re still going down
Hold on now
We’re still fighting

And it’s
One step forward, two steps back
This is all who are marching
One step forward, two steps back
This is young and old
One step forward, two steps back
Through the void of the silence
You are not alone

You see these hands?
They’re a million strong
They are yours now
Hold on now
We’re all going down
Hold on now
We’re all fighting at home
The war at home

Josh Groban – The War at Home (video)
Linked at Jackie Wellfonder’s Raging Against the Rhetoric with links to other Veteran’s Day stories.