11-11-11: Saluting America’s veterans

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
For nearly 100 years, America has been honoring her veterans on a day that recalls the end of the first war that included extensive use of military air power.

For that same long century, a field near Detroit has been providing a significant percentage of that air power to meet the nation's needs.

The guns of World War I fell silent on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. That day, Nov. 11, has been marked ever since by the United States as a day to honor those who have served - first in that war and later expanded to all those who have served in peace time and in war.

For more than a year before that date, Selfridge Field had been a training center for the fledgling new air wing of America's military. More than 1,000 pilots and aerial gunners were trained at Selfridge during World War I. "The Great War" - as the conflict was known at the time -- launched a history of service at Selfridge which continues to this day. Almost 400 Airmen from around the wing will be forward deployed on Veterans Day 2011.

"For almost 100 years, Selfridge has played an important role in our military history," said Col. Michael Thomas, 127th Wing commander at Selfridge. "Veterans of service at Selfridge, as well as those who continue to serve, have earned the gratitude of a nation that continues to enjoy the freedoms these veterans have defended."

The Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended World War I, was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France, some seven months after the fighting had concluded. In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations..."

On May 13, 1938, Congress made the 11th of November a legal holiday--a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after both World War II and the Korean War had passed into the history books, numerous veterans organizations to change the name to Veterans Day. President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation" on Oct. 8, 1954.

The 1968 Uniform Holiday Law changed the dates of several federal holidays, including moving Veteran's Day to the nearest Monday to Nov. 11. This action was protested by many veterans organizations and many states continued to celebrate the holiday on Nov. 11.

Veterans Day was marked on a Monday in 1971-1974. In 1975, Congress changed the official date back to Nov. 11, because of the historic significance of the date.

Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

Today, Selfridge Field is known as Selfridge Air National Guard Base and is home to units of every branch of the U.S. military and several agencies of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security.

Parts of this article were provided by the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs..