Stand up, be quiet for our veterans

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By W.B. Evans

– Editor’s note: Mr. Evans is taking a well-deserved break this week. We are reprinting this Remember When column, which was originally published in the Nov. 8, 2008, edition of The Lancaster News. It is especially timely with Veterans Day observance on Friday. 


At one time, the significance of Nov. 11 – Veterans Day – wasn’t lost on anyone.  

Of course, World War I ended years before I was born, but Uncle Harry made sure I was well-schooled on what he called the War to End All Wars. 

There was a bunch of World War I soldiers around, too. 

Come to think of it, Mr. Jim Mahaffey (the grandfather of James, Ralph and Doris) lived just up the street from me. 

Mr. Jim was a veteran of the Spanish-American War in 1898.

Back then, Veterans Day was called Armistice Day because the warring parties signed an agreement to end the fighting at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918. That time wasn’t lost on us, either. 

Even with World War II raging, everything we were doing in class came to a screeching halt. We stood up and kept our mouths shut for a whole minute that day at 11 a.m. sharp as a tribute to all those soldiers who died over in Europe.

I went with Aunt Bess to put American flags along the wrought iron fence that surrounded the Confederate Monument at the courthouse. 

Wasn’t that something? 

Aunt Bess was in the UDC (Daughters of the Confederacy). Her daddy served with the Palmetto Grays during the Civil War. 

I guess putting out those flags symbolized that it didn’t matter what color your uniform was. Confederate and Yankees were plain Americans alike.

These days, we sorta skip by VE-Day and VJ-Day which ended World War II in Europe and the Pacific. That’s sad, too. 

The veterans of World War I like Mr. Jim have passed into memory and the ranks of our WWII veterans are thinning at the rate of almost 1,400 a day. 

My military days covered the Korean War and a tour of duty in Vietnam. Both were unpopular. 

But when it comes down to it, I wonder how many wars were popular? 

For me, it’s hard to fathom that our Korean veterans are also breaking ranks. 

Most of us are now in our 70s.

A somber walk along the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall along the National Mall in Washington, D.C., offers a very telling sign.

The ex-soldiers who visit it now reach out to reverently touch the names of friends etched in stone are no longer young men.  

These days, our younger veterans relate more to the two wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

I have to ask this question, too.

How many of our teachers will close their books at 11 a.m. Tuesday and ask their students to stand up and silently honor the men and women who have protected and continue to protect that red, white and blue banner that’s on the flag pole in front of the building?  

I pray that it’s all of them.

Life is so fickle, iPods, cell phones, blackberrys and what’s for lunch seem to occupy the thoughts of our young.

But those who have served and the families who have lost sons and daughters will stop. 

They understand why 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 still matters.

The biggest part of remembering is caring.