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The Significance of Veterans Day

By Wesley Smith1541792177716

Veterans Day is this Sunday, November11th, but will be commemorated this Monday, November 12th, as a Federal Holiday. Formerly known as Armistice Day, this holiday was originally created to commemorate the end of World War I, which officially took place on November 11, 1918.  It is the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I and the centennial of this National Holiday that is sacred to our collective memory as Americans.

In 1954 the 83rd U.S. Congress – responding to veterans’ service organizations and in the aftermath of World War II and The Korean War -- deleted the word "Armistice" and inserted the word "Veterans."  With President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s signature on June 1, 1954, legislation was enacted establishing November 11 as a day to honor all American veterans.

World War I was referred to as the “war to end all wars.”  That was a thoughtful and hopeful wish. Unfortunately, it did not come true.  Throughout the 20th Century, and in response to the horrific acts on September 11 at the beginning of the 21th this century, U.S. forces continue to fight the evils that plague our world.  In our all-volunteer military, men and women continue to risk their lives as icons of justice and freedom, and to counter the forces of evil that would do us harm.

Although many people confuse the Veterans Day commemorations with Memorial Day, we should note that Memorial Day honors those members of the military who paid the ultimate sacrifice and gave their life in the service of our nation. This includes those killed in action or who died as a result of wounds or injuries received in battle.  Our latest loss as a country occurred last Saturday when Major Brent Taylor of the Utah Army National Guard was killed in Afghanistan.  A married father of seven, Major Taylor was the Mayor of North Ogden, Utah.  We grieve his loss to the nation and to his family.

On the other hand, Veterans Day is an occasion to honor all military veterans, those living and dead, who served with honor and to thank them for their service.  It has also become a day in which to thank all men and women who continue to serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, and the Guard and Reserve.

Veterans Day this year occurs as the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether a World War I memorial cross is constitutional under the First Amendment. The Bladensburg Peace Cross in Maryland was funded and erected nearly a century ago by the American Legion and others to commemorate the lives of local servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice in WWI. The cross, along with other monuments nearby that memorialize other armed conflicts, has long been a location for Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day ceremonies.

In 2014 the American Humanist Association (“AHA”) and a group of individuals filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the monument. One of those plaintiffs, who passes by the cross when running errands in the area, is “personally offended” by the cross and “feels excluded” by the message he thinks it conveys.

As ACLJ Senior Counsel Geoffrey Surtees noted recently, after losing in the district court, where Judge Chasanow correctly ruled that the monument did not violate the Establishment Clause, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his verdict and gave the AHA the victory it was seeking. The Fourth Circuit held that, because a “reasonable observer would fairly understand the Cross to have the primary effect of endorsing religion,” the monument was unconstitutional and had to be dismantled.  In a bizarre judicial suggestion, it ordered the district court to consider whether the arms of the cross should be “remov[ed]” or the cross entirely “raz[ed],” or other “arrangements [could be made] that would not offend the Constitution.”

With controversies over the National Anthem, the American flag and religious symbols like the Bladensburg Cross so conspicuous, it is tempting to be discouraged and to fear that patriotism is on the decline. What happened to the America of our parents or grandparents?  Are we still unified as Americans?  Are we truly the United States?  Be encouraged.  Patriotism still lives.  We are still the international beacon of justice, freedom, and hope.  There have always been naysayers and those who see the faults of our nation and deny the noble and good.  That is as old as our republic. However, as a whole, we are blessed to live in a nation where our communities are united and strong, and where hearts beat with love of country.

May God bless all the military veterans of our great nation.  May we all aspire to live by the noble intentions and courageous deeds of our founding fathers and mothers–deeds which continue to live through those who wear the uniform of the Armed Forces. 

As we celebrate the 100th anniversary this weekend of the end of the war which this cross stands to commemorate, you can make a difference and take a stand for patriotism and that we are, indeed, “one nation under God.” Sign the petition below to keep the Bladensburg Peace Cross standing.

Have a blessed and patriotic Veterans’ Day!

Defend Bladensburg WWI Memorial Cross

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