The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “Peace has victories, but it takes brave men and woman to earn them.”
That observation was cited by the featured speaker at a Veterans Day program Monday, Nov. 11, at Clarinda Middle School.
“For the veteran, thank you for doing what you were bravely called to do so that we can safely do what we are free to do,” said Joe Christiansen, a member of Clarinda American Legion Sergy Post 98, which organized the event.
Noting that there are currently an estimated 25 million veterans in the United States, Christiansen said that “these men and women selflessly set aside their civilian lives, put on a uniform and served us.”
Their efforts, he said, accurately reflect a well-known comment by Winston Churchill: “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”
Veterans Day, Christiansen said, is a “celebration to honor American veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good, for the rest of us.”
He said a person can show no “greater love” than to lay down his or her life for a friend.
“Soldiers run that risk every single day,” he said.
As part his presentation, Christiansen reviewed the history of the holiday.
Although World War I officially ended on June 28, 1919, actual fighting was halted seven months earlier, he said, “when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities between Allied nations and Germany, went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.”
In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of what was called Armistice Day.
An act of Congress in 1938 designated it as a legal holiday each year, “to be dedicated to the cause of world peace,” Christiansen said.
Armistice Day originally was considered as a time to honor military personnel who had been killed in World War I or were veterans of that conflict who died later.
But in 1954, Christiansen said, “at the urging of a lot of veterans’ services,” Congress amended the 1938 act -- replacing the world “armistice” with “veterans,” living or deceased.
“So Veterans Day now honors all veterans of all wars,” he said.
The holiday has been the subject of some contention through the years. In June of 1968, the Uniform Holiday Bill was signed, with the purpose of giving federal employees a three-day weekend in conjunction with Veterans Day. The action resulted in the observance falling on different dates.
“Many states didn’t like that idea,” Christiansen said. “It caused a lot of confusion.”
In 1975, a law was passed to return Veterans Day to its traditional date.
Since 1978 it has been “on its rightful date, and is celebrated on Nov. 11 no matter which day of the week it happens to be,” Christiansen said.
During the program, veterans in attendance were introduced and recognized for their service.
The event included posting and retiring of colors, and a gun salute by members of the Legion post.
Also featured were performances by the seventh grade choir and the eighth grade band; playing of “Taps” by Lylly Merril and Amelia Hesse; and the reading of a poem by Adisyn Woods.