“The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.” – Czeslaw Milosz
With that quote in mind, I write this brief note today about Veterans Day and to accompany this photo from my recent trip to Emporia, Kansas.
First celebrated as Armistice Day, to commemorate the end of World War I, today’s observance as “Veterans Day” is due to the efforts of Alvin King of Emporia, who thought the day shouldn’t just honor the end of the first great war but should, instead, honor all U.S. veterans for their sacrifice and service.
He was particularly moved to do something after his nephew died during World War II and he wanted to be sure that he and his comrades were not forgotten. King’s idea caught fire in Emporia, which on Nov. 11, 1953, observed "Veterans" Day while the rest of the country still celebrated Armistice Day.
U.S. Rep. Ed Rees, also from Emporia, supported King’s idea and introduced a bill to officially change the name. It was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who also grew up in Kansas. King was on hand at the White House when Ike signed the bill – wearing his one-and-only suit, purchased for him by grateful veterans of both World War II and Korea.
All of the United States joined in celebrating that first national Veterans Day on Nov. 11, 1954. When King died in 1960, he was buried in that suit he wore to the White House ceremony. In 2003, Congress adopted a resolution declaring Emporia as “The founding city of Veterans Day,” and recognizing King as the Day’s founder.
Just one more quote to commemorate as well as provide a thought for the day. "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." -John Fitzgerald Kennedy
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