Honoring our veterans

By: Riley Zipper

“Mass confusion, intimidation, they basically make you feel like you’re nothing,” science teacher David Bradley recalls his first day in the United States Air Force. “You’re scared out of your mind. They’re yelling at you, calling you every name you can think of. They make you realize that you’re nobody, but by the time Basic Training is over they’ve built you into something completely different. That’s what Veterans Day is about.”

November 11 was Veterans Day. Veterans Day is the day set aside to celebrate the 21.9 million veterans in America. On November 11 at 11:00 a.m., a ceremony is held each year at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. This ceremony begins with a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns and continues inside the Memorial Amphitheater with a parade of colors by veterans’ organizations and remarks from dignitaries. The ceremony is intended to honor all those who served in the United States Armed Forces. In New Albany, at our national cemetery, there is also an annual celebration.

“I was in the Navy and the Army National Guard,” special education teacher Ed Barnes said. “My life would not be the way it is today if I hadn’t have been in the service. I had not finished high school upon entering, and it gave me a chance to do so. That’s why Veterans Day is so important to me.”

Veterans Day began as Armistice Day on November 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. In 1926, Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance. November 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. In 1954, president Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation changing the name to Veterans Day in order to honor veterans of all American wars. It is commonly confused with Memorial Day, celebrated the fourth Monday in May. Memorial Day honors those veterans that died during service, but Veterans Day honors all veterans, living or dead, who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.

“Veterans Day is an important holiday, it’s not observed as it should be, particularly in the schools,” Barnes said. “A lot of people take it for granted and don’t understand what it means.”

Mr. Bradley disagreed.

“I think it’s observed enough,” Bradley said. “People do a pretty good job, especially after September 11. People have honored our soldiers more after that [event].”

In 1968 Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday in October by an act of Congress in order to create a three-day weekend for government employees. However, many states, localities and veterans groups resisted the shift of Veterans Day. In 1978, Veterans Day was moved back to its annual observance on November 11.

Even though Barnes and Bradley were in the military years ago, they still feel it is a realistic option for students today.

“The military is a great way to go,” Bradley said. “I tell my students that college is not for everybody, and that there are other avenues to take, and the military is definitely a great avenue to take. But always know what you’re getting yourself into, have all the information. I’d definitely recommend it.”

“Enlisting in the military was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life,” Barnes said, “The military is great if you don’t have a plan. If you do, like college or something, then go that way, but if you don’t have a plan, look at the military.”

Our troops have laid it all on the line for our freedom. Football players are not heroes. Musicians are not heroes. But our soldiers are the greatest heroes we’ll ever have.

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