Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Appreciate our Veterans

111111 Vets

SANTA FE -- Today is a very special day. Most importantly, it is a day to honor our veterans, living and dead, who fought that we might be free.
Secondly, it is a special day for those interested in numbers. Today, ceremonies are being conducted in many parts of the world to celebrate a treaty signed on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, of 1918.
It was billed as the war to end all wars. Unfortunately the claim was most naïve. The scores weren't settled on that war for another 27 years, in 1945. In reality, the fighting in outlying areas continued for some time past Nov. 11.
There are those who contend that the date and time were chosen by powerful Europeans because of the significance they attached to all those elevens. This year, the numbers are even more fascinating because it is the 11th year of a century and a millennium.
And just as with the treaty signing being moved up to coincide with a significant date, it is expected that many more babies will be born today to mothers anxious to have children on such an unusual date.
Expectant mothers aren't the only ones who will be taking advantage of the date. I'm guessing that if you look at the ads in today's paper, you will find some 11-11-11 specials on cars, restaurant meals and all sorts of shopping items.
And, to top it all off, you likely have heard many prophesies about world peace suddenly breaking out today. Ether that, or it will be the end of the world. Of course, we've become weary of end-of-the world prophesies in the past few years. They always seem to turn out the same.
Instead, veterans and their families will attend ceremonies at 11 a.m., maybe with a jet flyover. Other than hearing the noise, most people will give Veteran's Day little further thought. But there are some places in the world where the day still is very special indeed.
I will never tire of recalling my most memorable Veterans' Day. My wife and I were in Brussels, Belgium. We had never been there before and were anxious to see the sights. But we were told at the hotel desk that it was a very important national holiday and we were unlikely to find anything open.
We had encountered holiday celebrations in other countries and figured this was just one more that we would know or care little about. Imagine our surprise when the desk clerk explained they were celebrating the armistice that ended World War I, which had been very devastating to their country.
Of course, this was Nov. 11, Veterans' Day, as we would call it. We were in downtown Brussels and thought it would be interesting to see how Belgians celebrated the day. And we weren't disappointed.
Following our walking tour map we quickly found the famous Manekin Pis fountain, a 300-year old brass sculpture of a little boy doing what little boys do. The statue is dressed in many different costumes, depending on the time of year.
On Nov. 11, it was clad in an American Legion uniform and holding an American flag. We expressed our surprise and appreciation loudly enough that a local overheard us and explained how much the Belgians feel indebted to the United States for all we did for them during both the first and second world wars.
She said she hoped we could stay for the parade and ceremonies just down the street. We walked to the main thoroughfare, saw a large reviewing stand and more American flags lining the street than I have seen in any American city.
We didn't stay long because the speeches were in Dutch, French and German, the nation's three official languages. Belgians speak many other dialects, also, but enjoyed telling us, in perfect English, that English is their fourth language.


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