Some businesses and government offices are closed this fine Monday in honor of America's military veterans. For example, don't count on mail landing in your mailbox today. I'm talking about snail mail, delivered compliments of the U.S. Postal Service. It's closed today.
I wonder how much honoring will take place today. Of course, I think we all know that Veterans Day is being observed by many this Nov. 12 Monday – even though Nov. 11 was Veterans Day – because it gives those many folks a three-day holiday weekend.
Veterans Day is always on Nov. 11, as decreed by Congress in 1954. It began in 1919 as Armistice Day to promote world peace and honor veterans of World War I, which officially ended in 1918 on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed off on the 1954 congressional act that amended the holiday to include all veterans of all wars and which changed the name to Veterans Day.
A lot of people confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day. They don't realize that Memorial Day is the time to honor those who gave their lives in service to their country. Memorial Day, which is at the end of every May, is when we bow our heads and give thanks to the fallen for their supreme sacrifice. Veterans Day is the time to honor the living men and women who have served their country in the military in time of war and peace.
This past weekend was especially good for Marines – active duty, retired and those who served just one stint in the Corps. (Once a Marine, always a Marine, as that old saying goes.) While Sunday was Veterans Day, Saturday was the birthday of the Marine Corps. The Corps was established on Nov. 10, 1775, at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia. Those first Marines were the Continental Marines. They became the United States Marines after the War of Independence.
We jarheads, by the way, figure it was rather appropriate that the Marine Corps began in a tavern.
To Marines past and present, the birthday of the Corps has always been a big deal. Understand that I mean a really big deal. It's time for the Marine Corps Ball, sharing of the Marine Corps birthday cake, saluting Marines who marched before us, and toasting all Marines of today. That's all Marines. Remember, once a Marine, always a Marine.
I observed my first four Marine Corps birthdays while serving overseas. Three of those were in Vietnam. But it was on my fifteen Marine Corps birthday when I spilled blood for God, Country and Corps. I was in the Marine Corps Ball ceremony in the service club at Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base outside Kansas City. We ceremonial leathernecks were decked out in our dress blues, equipped with NCO and officer swords. At one point during the pomp and pageantry, we snapped our swords from order sword to carry sword. That means our swords were pointed down, each with tip near the ground, and then we had to smartly whip them up with points up, handles in our right hands, which were snug to the sides of our right hips. Being the best klutz I could be, I wildly snapped up my sword tip and sliced open my right ear lobe. And being the best Marine I could be, I carried on throughout the ceremony as if nothing unusual had happened. I did not, however, receive a Purple Heart for my ceremonial wound.
If any Marines woke up yesterday feeling a little groggy after too many birthday toasts Saturday night, they perhaps could have mixed up something like a Bloody Mary with which they could have toasted America's military veterans on Veterans Day. I don't encourage such follow-up therapy, but it might be right in order to both honor our veterans and irrigate one's cerebrum. Just an idea.
Which brings us back to Veterans Day and honoring our military veterans. That also means we should be careful not to dishonor our veterans, so I want to set something straight on behalf of the most-dishonored bunch out there – veterans of the Vietnam War. Are you ready for this, America? Here it is: We didn't lose that damn war. More than 68,000 Americans died in the Vietnam War, and don't you even think that our fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines died for "the only war that America ever lost." The bad guys were reeling after Tet 1968, and the war clearly was won by 1970. It
simply didn't stay won after we left.
To my fellow Marines and my fellow veterans, to all of you outstanding men and women who wear or have worn the uniform, I thank for you service. I hope you had a great weekend. I hope and pray you have many more.