Honoring Veterans Today and Always

vetsday08Today is Veterans Day in the United States, a day set aside to remember and honor all veterans.  I have many relatives and friends who have served in the U.S. military.  On this day, I’d like to honor my father (USN), my brother (USMC), Frank (USN), Frank’s Dad (USN), Uncle Ken (USN), cousins BG Mike (USA) and Suzanne (USAF), friends Bob (USMC), Rick (USMC), Joe (USA), Tim (USA), and Tim’s son Danny (USA), chaplains Ron (USAF), Chappy (USAF), Ralph (USA), and Sherrill (USA), and numerous bosses and co-workers over the years including active duty military and many veterans now working for the DoD as civilians.

To all of you, and especially to all active military personnel currently in harm’s way (you’re in our thoughts and prayers), I have one thing to say:

T H A N K    Y O U !

Armistice Day and Polish Independence

Veterans Day is celebrated tomorrow in the United States.  The holiday was first established by President Wilson as Armistice Day on November 11, 1919.  The holiday originally celebrated the end of the “War to End All Wars” which formally ended at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918.  To those of us generations removed from this war, it is difficult to realize its impact on the world.  It is estimated that nearly 20 million people died globally as a result.  At war’s end, four European empires disappeared: Russian, Ottoman, German, and Austro-Hungarian.

Tomorrow has additional significance in Poland because it is celebrated as Independence Day – at the end of the war in 1918, Poland re-appeared on the map of Europe and became a country again for the first time in 123 years.  Józef Piłsudski became the leader of the new Poland.

I can only wonder how World War I affected my ancestors.  As far as I know, none of my ancestors served in the military during the war, although my one Polish great-grandfather volunteered to fight for Poland in Haller’s Army.  But all of my great-grandparents living in America had only immigrated ten or twenty years prior to the war – surely they had relatives and friends living near the battlefields in Europe.  My German great-grandparents were not naturalized citizens, so they had to register with the U.S. government as “enemy aliens”.  I am sure that there must have been ethnic tensions during the war where neighbors wondered about which “side” of the war German immigrants were on.  Even though my great-grandfather had American sons that would go on to serve in the U.S. military, I wonder if he had conflicted feelings about the war – his own cousins and nephews were fighting in the German military.  It would be interesting to know how he felt about the war’s end – the economic hardships that his former country was about to endure would set the stage for an even greater and tragic war.

For my three Polish great-grandfathers, there must have been great rejoicing after the war, for Poland was once again a country.  Though they were Polish, neither they nor their fathers or grandfathers were born in Poland, but instead in Russian-occupied Poland. I’d like to wish a Happy Independence Day to all of my Polish friends tomorrow!

As we know, the Great War was not the war to end all wars.  After World War II, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day and is a holiday to honor all veterans.  Tomorrow I’ll have a special message for all of my family members and friends who are veterans.

Here are posts from genealogy blogs this past week that are related to World War I research:

Honor Our American Heroes

hoahAs Veterans Day approaches, I want to highlight a special effort to honor veterans, who are truly our heroes.  Since the organization is run by a friend of mine, Dan Gomez, I have confidence in the integrity of the project since he is a man of integrity himself. The group is called OPERATION H.O.A.H. and is found on the web at www.operationhoah.org.  “HOAH” stands for “Honor Our American Heroes.”  HOAH also sounds a lot like the various services’ exclamations: the Army’s “Hooah“, the Marine’s “Oorah” and the Navy’s “Hooyah.” [You’ve never jumped high until you’ve been in the presence of a few hundred young soldiers all bellowing “Hooah” at the same time!]

The mission of OPERATION H.O.A.H. is two-fold: to honor or acknowledge each and every “American Hero” with a commemorative coin, and to raise donations for “Hero-oriented organizations.”  The coins have a beautiful design!  One side honors all military personnel past, present, and future with the emblems of each service – Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard – as well as the American flag and the text of the Pledge of Allegiance to remind us of the key principles from which this nation was formed.  The reverse side offers an acknowledgement of each military member’s courage and sacrifice with a blue star to represent our deployed heroes, a purple heart to represent our injured heroes, and the missing soldier symbol to represent our fallen heroes.

The coins can be purchased for $15, with $5 from each going to the charity of your choice.  Some of the charities associated with the project are: Helping Unite Gold Star Survivors, Gold Star Wives of America, Operation Never Forget, Silver Star Families Visit Site, and Homes for Heroes.  For more information on these charities, links are provided on the “Purchase” and “Charities” sections of the site.

The site’s creator, Dan Gomez, is my friend. He created this project as a way to honor his own hero, his father, who immigrated from Mexico and served as an U.S. Army medic in World War II.  Read more about Dan’s inspiration in this article published in the Hilltop Times on 10/16/08.

If you have a hero in your family, why not show them how much they mean to you by giving them a commemorative coin?  Let’s show these brave men and women how grateful we are for their service to this country, and also donate some money to worthwhile charities that support our veterans.

Click here for more information on Operation H.O.A.H.