Remembering American and Allied Veterans

  • Published
  • By Dr. Robert Kane
  • Air University director of history

This coming weekend, millions of Americans are planning for take a long three-day weekend.  Some will travel to friends and relatives.  Others will have socials for friends and relatives at their homes.

Whatever American do, they should remember why they have this holiday:  to honor the millions of American men and women from every aspect of the fabric of America who have sacrificed their time, sometimes time with families, sometimes with limbs, and, all too often, their lives to defend American values and way of life and to guarantee similar freedoms of millions of people around the world through service in the US Armed Forces.

In addition, Veterans Day has a special meaning for Montgomerians.  On November 11, known as Remembrance Day in Brittan, this year, officers of the Royal Air Force (RAF), Royal Canadian Air Force, and French Air Force will honor their sacred dead, buried in a special section of Oakwood Cemetery, from World War II.  Select military and civilian officials will lay commemorative wreaths at their gravesites.

Between June 1941 and February 1943, over 7,800 young RAF flight cadets came to the Southeast United States to learn to fly so they could return to Britain and defend their homeland from the Nazis during Britain’s darkest hour.  Of those, 78 died in training accidents and are buried in Oakwood Cemetery. 

Between June 1943 and November 1945, over 4,000 young Frenchmen came to the Southeast to learn to fly so they could return to Europe and help in liberating their homeland from the Nazi oppressors.  Of these, 20 died in training accidents are buried next to their British comrades.

Almost a hundred years ago, the artillery had pounded the Western Front in France for four years finally fell silent on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour of the day. 

A year later, on what became known as Armistice Day, President Woodrow Wilson issued a message in which he called upon all Americans to remember the “heroism of those who died in the country’s service” during that war.  In 1926, the US Congress requested President Calvin Coolidge to issue annual proclamations to observe November 11 with appropriate ceremonies, and twelve years late, made November 11 officially Armistice Day.

In 1945, World War II veteran, Raymond Weeks of Birmingham, Alabama, led a delegation to Washington, DC, to gain support for a National Veterans Day to honor all those American men and women who had served in the US Armed Forces in all wars.  On 1954, the US Congress passed a law which made November 11 Veterans Day.

Between 1971 and 1977, Veterans Day officially fell on the fourth Monday of October.  However, in 1978, Congress moved the official Veterans Day to the historic original day, November 11.