Veteran stories tell of both war and homefront

Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, marks the 100th anniversary of the date that the very first Veterans Day was observed to honor all military veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. throughout the United States.

Veterans Day, originally celebrated as Armistice Day, was first issued on Nov. 11, 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson a year after the end of World War I. The purpose of Armistice day was to honor the fallen soldiers of The Great War for their sacrifice and bravery. Seven years later in 1926, Congress adopted a resolution requesting President Coolidge issue annual proclamations on Nov. 11, making Armistice Day a legal holiday.

In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans rather than just the ones who died in World War I. He led a delegation to General Dwight Eisenhower, who was in favor of the idea. Weeks then conducted the first Veterans Day celebration in 1945 in Alabama and every year until his death in 1985. In 1982, he was honored by President Reagan with the Presidential Citizenship Medal. Weeks was also named the “Father of Veterans Day” by Elizabeth Dole.

Ed Rees, the U.S. Representative from Emporia, Kansas, presented a bill establishing the holiday through to congress. Eisenhower, who was now President and also from Kansas, signed the bill into law on May 26, 1954, eight and a half years after Weeks held the first Veterans Day. A few weeks later, June 1, Congress amended the bill replacing “Armistice” with “Veterans.”

This year, Itasca County is marking Veterans Day with the Warrior Week of Celebration. Coinciding with the grand opening of the Itasca County Historical Society’s new exhibit, “Itasca Veterans Project,” this week of special events culminates Monday and Tuesday with Veterans Day programs throughout the county and at area schools (see page 2A for times and locations).

The new exhibit, housed at the ICHS (201 N. Pokegama Avenue, Grand Rapids), features written and oral histories of Itasca County residents who bravely served their country in various branches of the military in conflicts from the Civil War to modern day.

One such story was recently shared with the Herald-Review by Bill Sackett, of Grand Rapids, about his father U.S. Navy Veteran Richard Sackett. Another was sent to the newspaper from Grand Rapids native Rodney Goodell this summer and tells of his experience traveling with the Honor Flight to Washington D.C.

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