As we prepare to celebrate Veterans Day on Friday, Nov. 11, 2011, a brief history of this day to honor veterans of all wars might serve to remind the members of all veterans' organizations of the importance of strength in numbers to safeguard our rights and those of all Americans in this great nation of ours.
Formerly known as Armistice Day to honor the end of World War I, which officially took place on Nov. 11, 1918, this day was set as a U.S. legal holiday. In 1938, Nov. 11 was "dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day." As such, this new legal holiday honored World War I veterans.
In 1954, having been through World War II and the Korean War, veterans' service organizations urged Congress to amend the act of 1938 by replacing the word "Armistice" and inserting the word "Veterans," honoring the veterans of all wars.
In 1968 the Uniforms Holiday Bill, ensuring federal employees three-day weekends, resulted in Veterans Day being observed on Oct. 25 in 1971. In September of 1975, President Gerald Ford signed a law that returned Veterans Day to its original date of Nov. 11, beginning in 1978 and continuing today.
A more recent headline said, "First Amendment will prevail at Houston VA National Cemetery"; the ban was lifted on prayer and the word "God" at national cemeteries, revoking national policies hostile to religion and reopening the chapel at the Houston Veterans Administration National Cometary. Its identity had been changed to a "meeting facility." Federal District Judge Lynn N. Hughes signed a consent decree ordering the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to the stated provisions. The national VFW declared victory in a federal lawsuit (Rainy vs. VA) resulting in this case.
"God bless America, and God bless our veterans!"
Our local VFW Post 3357 is currently conducting the annual "Turkey Raffle" to assist in gathering the necessary funds to help our veterans and their families in times of need. Tickets are available at the post as well as from members and officers of the various organizations comprising the Veterans Memorial Association. Five turkeys will be given to the lucky winners, and an additional turkey and trimmings to a needy family. In the current economic crisis, there are a number of them. Drawing will take place at the Nov. 17 membership meeting, and the turkeys will be delivered shortly after.
The Saranac Lake VA clinic is open and functioning well. Our thanks to Dr. Cohn and the staff for the excellent care our veterans are receiving. Get the word out to all the veterans to go there and sign up to receive a VA card. The clinic is located on Depot Street across the street from the railroad station. The opening went great and was attended by Tim Pierce, our veterans representative; Congressman Bill Owens; Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau; John Mills, president of Paul Smith's College; VA Medical Director Linda Weiss; Peter Potter, VA public affairs; and, with all due respect to the aforementioned personalities, the most important attendees, the local veterans and their families. An outstanding luncheon was provided by Eat 'n' Meet of Saranac Lake. Our thanks to John Vargo for this outstanding contribution and their continued support of our veterans and their families. He also is a veteran.
So many people were involved, and Dan Reilly from Home Energy, our landlord, weathered the challenge of dealing with the establishment of the clinic with the national VA organization. Albany VA was our saving grace. As I mentioned before, it is now time for our Tri-Lakes veterans and those of surrounding communities to step up and sign up. The number of the clinic is 518-626-5237. Make sure you bring your DD214 document. The clinic can sign you up and issue your cards. It costs only your time and is a priceless health insurance for you now and in the future. The VA card is honored and welcomed at all VA clinics and hospitals wherever you travel.
The Veterans Day ceremony will be held at the Harrietstown Town Hall and will commence at 10:45 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 11. We will assemble at that time to allow for the presentation of the colors and the assembly of the guests and guest speaker, to take their positions on stage before 11 a.m., at which time we will have a moment of silence in commemoration of those who have made the supreme sacrifice. Our guest speaker will be Col. Eric Olsen, head chaplain for the New York National Guard. Col. Olsen has first-hand experience of what our men and women who serve endure while on their various assignments, as well as the effect on them and their families when they return home.
We urge the members of the Tri-Lakes community to join us on Veterans Day, thanking those who served and are serving, as well as their families and the caring, nurturing, healing activities of Homeward Bound, Creative Healing Connections and our VA facilities.
All are invited to attend a luncheon following the ceremony, provided by our Ladies Auxiliaries, at the Veterans Memorial Association at 202 Broadway in Saranac Lake. See you there!
May we always remain "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL."
Frank Karl is adjutant and senior vice president of VFW Post 3357 in Saranac Lake. He lives in Onchiota.