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How to Celebrate Veterans Day

Honoring Veterans Day

November 11th is a day set aside to honor all military service veterans. It is a day to remember the loyalty and the dedication of all servicemen and women for their service to the United States of America, who have given their time, their tears, their blood, and sometimes their very lives to strengthen and defend America, democracy and human rights around the world.

Veterans Day is meant to thank and appreciate men and women who have or are serving in any branch of the United States Army, Marines, Air Force or Marines. It also includes those who have or do service in the National Guard and other military branch services, regardless of rank or service station.

Veterans Day used to be called both Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, the date selected because November 11th is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice at the end of the First World War in 1918. According to historical records, the First World War ended in the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, which makes it understandable that such a date would be set aside in commemoration forever thereafter. President Woodrow Wilson oversaw the first observation of the day in 1919, and by 1926 Congress passed a resolution asking all Americans to recognize the special day.

In 1938, Veterans Day became recognized as a national holiday. It is a national day of observance and government offices and banks are closed, though schools and most private businesses remain open. Veterans groups and organizations throughout the country celebrate the day, and citizens attend parades, cemetery services and other local events. Schools often honor the day by inviting veterans to speak to students, and red, white and blue decorations, as well as American flags, adorn sidewalks, buildings, homes and schools around the nation.

The observance of Veterans Day is to recognize and honor soldiers and servicemen and women serving in the United States and abroad, while Memorial Day is meant to honor the military dead from battles and wars fought by Americans throughout this country’s history. It doesn’t matter whether or not the service veteran saw actual combat or not, or if they have served in peacetime or during a time of war. American veterans have given years of their lives to the service of their country, whether that service was given in Fort Lewis, Washington, or Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iran or Iraq.

Veterans Day is a day for grandfathers and fathers to tell their children and grandchildren about their experiences, to perpetuate feelings of loyalty and service of country to the younger generation. It is a time of appreciation and an awakened awareness of what veterans, both young and old, do and have done for their country. Veterans Day is not meant to glorify war or encourage hatred or intolerance of different cultures, but a time to realize that the price of freedom and democracy sometimes comes at a very high price. Every country in the world has some sort of military force, and Veterans Day is celebrated in other countries besides the United States, though the names and dates may be different.

Veterans Day offers all Americans the chance to fully appreciate the sons, daughters, husbands, wives and brothers and sisters of nearly every family in the country for feeling enough pride in their country to defend it against tyranny and attack. Veterans Day is a time when Americans say ‘thank-you’ to the men and women of all races, creeds and beliefs, for doing what they feel is their duty and offering several years’ of their lives to the ideals that America stands for; peace, freedom and democracy.

Honoring the Fallen on Memorial Day

Remembering the men and women, soldiers and civilians, who have died while defending the United States has been a tradition in America since 1863, following the death of hundreds of thousands of soldiers during the War Between the States. Back then, the day of recognition was called Decoration Day, because flowers were placed on the graves of soldiers from both North and South. Started by women, some the wives of government representatives, others within local communities, the tradition became a yearly one.

The idea of recognizing a day to honor fallen soldiers is believed to have begun with a woman named Miss Emma Hunter of Pennsylvania, who appeared at her father’s tomb with flowers in 1864. There, she also met another woman bearing flowers to the grave of her son. The two women agreed to meet the same day the following year in order to again place flowers on their graves, and so Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, is credited with originating Memorial Day. Another legend tells of the creation of Memorial Day taking place as women from Columbus, Mississippi placed flowers upon the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers in 1866.

In 1865, a suggestion was made to the Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic for citizens around the country to be able to have access to soldier’s graves on the last day of May for the purpose of “strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country.” Shortly thereafter, ceremonies were held at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, directly across the Potomac River from Washington D.C., where they continue to this day. Though Memorial Day was not officially designated a national holiday until the late 1870’s, observers from towns and cities across the United States observed, recognized and honored veterans of all wars the last day in May. In 1873, New York was the first state in America to officially declare May 30th a legal holiday.

Navy personnel and families created small boats made of flowers and set them afloat at ports on both American coasts to that the tides would carry the flowers out to sea in the hopes that they would eventually find those who had been buried or lost at sea. Towns everywhere celebrate the day with red, white and blue streamers, parades, speeches and events designed to commemorate the sacrifices and loyalty of soldiers, both men and women, who have lost their lives in the continued pursuit of freedom and democracy. Flags, normally raised in front of all government and school buildings, are also raised in front of homes. Cemeteries around the country are decorated with thousands of little flags placed at the headstones of veterans. Military ceremonies performed throughout the country offer cannon and gun salutes to those who have given their all for their country. The playing of Taps in cemetery ceremonies around the nation brings tears to thousands of eyes every year, while white crosses decorated with red poppies or carnations remind all Americans that freedom is neither free nor to be taken for granted.

Schools around the country celebrate Memorial Day with crafts and classroom assignments that ensure that soldier’s contributions to freedom never be forgotten, and many veterans visit classrooms and auditoriums around the country, telling of their experiences during various battles and wars. The Pledge of Allegiance became a daily requirement for American children in schools around the country, serving as a reminder of what it means to be a citizen of one of the greatest countries in the world.

Memorial Day is one of America’s most honored holidays, when all military personnel are recognized and appreciated for their sacrifices and dedication to preserving the ideals of freedom and democracy not only within the United States of America, but around the globe.

How to Honor Civil Rights Day

Honoring Civil Rights Day

In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower suggested that the United States government should form a group recognizing and addressing the issues of civil rights in a formal manner. The result was the formation of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.
Generally observed on the third Monday of January, along with Martin Luther King’s birthday, Civil Rights Day is a day to reflect on the dreams and aspirations of millions of Americans of different color, races, creeds and beliefs.

Civil rights are defined as specific rights as guaranteed by the United State’s Constitution, which are freedom of religion, freedom of speech and of the press, and the right to equal protection under the law, as well as due process. Since the end of the Civil War and the freeing of slaves after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the search and drive for equal rights among Africa-Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native American’s has propelled America through several eras of growing pains and lessons gained from multiple public figureheads. The 1950’s and 1960’s saw an unprecedented number of moves within every geographical area within the United States, to recognize and address issues of equality between African-Americans, Asians and Latino citizens within around the country. Such men as Martin Luther King Jr., and César Chávez, as well as well as group movements such as the Black Panthers and the American Indian Movement has drawn much attention to the plight and inequality of many races within the United States.

The very first governmental legislation that sought to ensure the rights of former slaves were introduced and defined in the Civil Rights Acts of the 1800’s, which gave African-American males the right to vote and to own property. By 1870, the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed ‘equal protection under the law to all persons (not only to citizens) within their jurisdictions’. David Souter, a Supreme Court Justice, said of the amendment, “it is the most significant structural provision adopted since the original Framing”. While the Amendment was not generally recognized and put into actual process in the 1950’s and 1960’s, it served as the basis for the prevention of racial segregation in public schools. Since the advent of civil rights movements of the 1960’s, Americans of different colors and beliefs today are able to enjoy freedoms that their ancestors never dreamed possible.

However, the United States of America is ‘dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…’ and even though it took years of struggle and sacrifice to attain current standards, America as a whole has grown in resources and ideology since then. Federal regulations drafted and implemented in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s saw individual states passing their own civil rights laws, and the era spawned the organization that is known today as the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, as well as the Congress of Racial Equality and the Urban League.

The famous civil rights movements held during the 1960’s, mainly led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., are a part of America’s history and are recognized and remembered as a time of struggle, of changing attitudes and the breaking down of barriers that had separated races since the earliest colonial times. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited employers and businesses from discriminating against anyone because of the color of his or her skin, their beliefs, their ethnicity or their nation or origin. It ordered that public facilities be accessible to people of all colors and backgrounds, and did away with the idea of segregation.

Today, children of all races and colors play together on school playgrounds and join together in friendship and learning in campuses around the country. People of different races enjoy living side-by-side and learning from each other. Civil Rights Day is a day when the efforts and sacrifice of those who came before us paved the way to open relations and broke down barriers between those of different race, color and creed.