By Richard Walker
Vets for Vets of Archuleta County
On Nov. 11 at 11 minutes after 11 a.m. in 1918, an armistice was signed by Germany and the Allied powers, ending World War I. There were 41 million casualties in WWI: 20 million were killed and 21 million injured. The war was so horrible and casualties were so high, it was referred to as “the war to end all wars.” Of course, this was not the last war.
On the first anniversary of the end of WWI, Nov. 11, 1919, “Armistice Day” was first observed. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938.
In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor all American veterans.
Unlike Memorial Day, when we honor those who died serving their country in the U.S. military, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans — living or dead — but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.
In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed by Congress, which moved Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October, but in 1975 President Gerald Ford returned Veterans Day to Nov. 11 due to historical significance of that date.
Great Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the veterans of WWI and WWII on or near Nov. 11. Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain has Remembrance Sunday on the second Sunday of November.
Last week on Veterans Day, there was a solemn and beautiful ceremony commemorating our Veterans at the Archuleta County Veterans Memorial Park. The Pagosa Springs American Legion post, Post 108, conducted a flag ceremony, invocation, bugle calls and prayers for all veterans, living and deceased. The ceremonies were led by Post Commander Raymond Taylor.
Post Chaplin Lee Voorhies gave the invocation and prayers, and the Post’s Honor Guard firing team did a rifle volley salute. During the presentations, Pagosa’s own San Juan Squadron (a group of former military pilots) conducted a fly-over, first in a V formation from the east, then at 11:11 a.m., they returned from the west and flew the “Missing Man” formation with smoke, honoring those who gave their last full measure in service to our country.
After the conclusion of the military portion of the ceremonies, Andre Redstone offered prayers in his own Native American language with an eagle feather and burning sage. Native Americans have served in every major U.S. conflict for over 200 years, from the battlefields of the Revolutionary War to the beaches of Normandy on D-Day to the front lines of today. Nearly 42,000 Native Americans served in the Vietnam War and 90 percent of those were volunteers. Native Americans serve at a rate of five times the national average. Ira Hayes, of the Pima Nation, was one of the six Marines who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima in WWII.
The event was attended by approximately 150 citizens and participants, and served to highlight the importance of our own Veterans Memorial Park for our community. The park foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization (vetsmemorialpark.org).