Veterans Day

November 11 is Veterans Day, originally called Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I. The war officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919 (my father’s third birthday) but combat ended about seven months earlier. The Allies and Germany stopped fighting on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Accordingly, November 11, 1918, was considered the end of “the war to end all wars” and in 1938 it became an official holiday. But then World War II and the Korean War happened. So on June 1, 1954, Congress amended the commemoration by changing the word “armistice” to “veterans” in order to honor American veterans of all wars.

Sometime ago I came across the poem I’m sharing with you today. It’s simply called “A Veterans Day Poem.” A portion that’s overly derogatory to politicians has been omitted.

He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies, they were heroes, every one.

And though sometimes to his neighbors his tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly, for they knew whereof he spoke.

But we’ll hear his tales no longer, since old Joe has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer, for a Veteran died today.

He won’t be mourned by many, just his children and his wife.
For he lived a very ordinary, quiet sort of life.

He had a job and family, going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing, though a Veteran died today.

When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Veteran goes unnoticed and unsung.

The politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate to the service that he gives.

While the ordinary Veteran, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps a pension small.

He was just a common Veteran and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his likes again.

If we cannot do him honor while he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days.

Perhaps a simple headline in the paper that might say:
“Our Country is in Mourning, for a Veteran Died Today.”

Especially next Monday, join me in thanking the women and men respectfully called “veterans” and remember with a thankful heart those who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy.

God Bless America

Before today’s article, allow me a personal note. Today would have been my father’s 102nd birthday. He was born in 1916 and died 35 years ago, in 1983. My 102 year old mother Elda still misses him. So do I and the rest of our family. Martin Kieschnick was a godly man and great father. He wasn’t perfect but he loved the Lord and he loved his family. To God be the glory!

Next Wednesday is the Fourth of July. Star-Spangled Banner was written in in 1814 by Francis Scott Key. God Bless America was written in 1918 by Irving Berlin. Both have become  nationally known and frequently sung songs of American patriotism. Some even suggest God Bless America would be a better national anthem than Star-Spangled Banner.

Here’s a bit of reported history I found regarding God Bless America. In the late 1930s America was still in a terrible economic depression. Hitler was taking over Europe and Americans were afraid we’d have to go to war. It was a time of hardship and worry for most Americans.

In this era just before TV, radio shows were quite popular. American families, including mine and very likely most of yours, sat around their radios in the evening, listening to their favorite entertainers. One popular entertainer was Kate Smith, a very patriotic person.

One source I read says Kate went to the famous American song writer, Irving Berlin, and asked him to write a song that would make Americans feel good again about their country.

Another source says that in 1938 Berlin went to his files and found a song he had written 20 years earlier, but had decided not to publish. He redid the song and began searching for the right singer to introduce it. He thought about Kate Smith and gave it to her and her orchestra.

Regardless of these details, God Bless America become an overnight sensation. Smith and Berlin agreed not to take any revenue from God Bless America. All profits would go to the God Bless America Fund he established to support the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America. It’s reported that Scouting programs have received millions in royalties from this song.

To this day, God Bless America stirs patriotic feelings and pride in our country. Kate Smith and Irving Berlin succeeded in encouraging and raising the spirits of their fellow Americans during years of hardship and worry. Their song continues to do so today for many Americans.

So on this Fourth of July and every day, God Bless America!