Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

11-9 Vets Day is Celebrated on Nov. 11, not 12th


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- Veterans Day is a very special day for many reasons. First, it recognizes the end of  "the war to end all wars." This year we celebrate the 89th anniversary of that treaty.

      Second, it recognizes our living veterans who served in the defense of our country.  And finally, it falls into the very special category of not being on a movable Monday.

      It once was. In 1971, Congress came up with a great idea for three-day weekends. It applied to all federal holidays but Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year's Day and Independence Day.

      But our veterans had something to say about that. How could a treaty signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month be rescheduled to any other date?

      It made sense. But why should that matter? What brought the change was the outrage of millions of veterans. In 1978, Congress retreated and restored Veterans Day to its proper place on the calendar.

      Oh sure, if the day falls on a weekend, those who don't work on federal holidays get off on the closest work day. But the official observance is held on November 11.

      As with most other federal holidays, Veterans Day doesn't get celebrated much anymore. For some, it produces a three-day weekend, this year. But there isn't much one can do with three-day weekends in November. Many people trade it for the Friday after Thanksgiving.

   We're all thankful to our veterans for having given us a safer world, but most of that is forgotten history. The most memorable Veterans Day I'm sure I will ever have occurred four years ago. Faithful readers of this column have heard me tell before of that experience.

   We were in Brussels, Belgium. We'd never been there before and were anxious to see the sights. But we were told it was a very important holiday and we were unlikely to find anything open.

   Fortunately we were at a downtown hotel so we decided to just walk around to see the sights we could. We weren't disappointed. Following our walking tour map, we found the famous maneken pis fountain, a brass sculpture of a little boy doing what little boys do.

   It represents something from ancient history of the area, but now it is dressed in many different costumes appropriate to the time of year. On Nov. 11, it was clad in an American Legion uniform and holding an American flag.

   We expressed our surprise, loudly enough that a local overheard. She had figured out that we were Americans. We're easy to pick out of a crowd, anywhere, for many reasons.

   She proceeded to tell us how much the Belgians appreciate Americans for what we did for them in both the first and second world wars. She said she hoped we would stay for the parade and ceremonies down the street.

   We did. I haven't seen that many American flags in the United States on Armistice Day. We didn't stay long because the ceremony was conducted in Dutch and French, the country's two official languages. But people on the street also spoke English effortlessly. It was nice to feel appreciated.

   As I think back on my readings and writings about World War II, I remember that the average age of our brave troops who stormed the beaches of Normandy, Anzio and Iwo Jima was 19.

   When I look at today's 19-year-olds, I wonder how they would cope with being the front lines defending our country. I realize that a few of them are in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I realize that many others would make us very proud.

   But when I think of all those I see slouching down the street with sloppy clothes and body piercings, sullen because life isn't giving them enough, I wonder if could they rise to the occasion if they were drafted to go defend us against the world?

   Let's be very thankful that when we needed that generation, it came through, not like gangs, but like gangbusters.

FRI, 11-09-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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