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Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

90 Years Ago this Month, But Only a Fleeting Memory

Here it is November, and yet once again we have let Veterans Day slip by with barely a salute. On November 11, I plan to drive Ventura Blvd. from Sepulveda Blvd. to Topanga Canyon Blvd. and count the number of American flags. Our collective memory in this country lasts but a nanosecond, unless it is something important, such as who won last season’s “American Idol,” how much the Dow Jones fell yesterday, or how quickly Britney Spears’ hair is growing back. Perhaps we should be ashamed of ourselves. Our ability to honor through remembrance those who gave their lives for our country is minimal and usually limited to seeing a TV clip or newspaper photograph of flag-festooned graves at our local VA cemetery. The roll call of dead American soldiers is testament to man’s inability to become more civilized: World War I: 116,516; World War II: 405,039; Korean War: 54,246; Vietnam: 90,209. There is just one Doughboy left. Frank Woodruff Buckles of Charles Town, West Virginia, was born February 1, 1901, and is the last living American veteran from WWI. Veterans Days, or as we used to call it, Armistice Day, began with “The War to End all Wars,” exactly ninety years ago, on November 11, 1918. Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when the Germans signed an Armistice, at Rethondes, France. On November 11, 1920, the British interred their Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey while the French laid theirs to rest on the same day beneath the Arch de Triomphe. On November 11, 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. For years, business would come to a halt for two minutes at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month. But now we are too busy to devote two minutes to honor our dead American soldiers. But they do it right in Israel. I was there in 2005, on that nation’s Memorial Day. Yom Hazikaron commemorates Israel’s 22,437 fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. For 24 hours, from sunset to sunset, theaters, cinemas, nightclubs, pubs, etc. are closed. All radio and television stations broadcast special programs and Israeli songs that convey the mood of the day. A siren blares across the country twice, during which the entire nation observes a two-minute standstill. I watched what appeared like a scene out of an old Twilight Zone episode: When the siren blared, all traffic ground to a halt. Pedestrians stopped where they were on sidewalks, or even in the middle of crossing a street. Everyone stood absolutely still for two minutes. Why is it that among Americans displays of patriotism come more easily from those in uniform than from civilians? Army Reserve Chaplain Jim Higgins is Senior Pastor of McEachern Memorial United Methodist Church in Powder Springs, Georgia. He wrote this letter home in May 2007, while stationed at Camp Anaconda, a large U.S. base near Balad, Iraq: ” We have a large auditorium we use for movies We stood and snapped to attention when the National Anthem began before the main feature. All was going as planned until about three-quarters of the way through the National Anthem the music stopped. “Now, what would happen if this occurred with 1,000 18-22 year-olds back in the States? I imagine there would be hoots, catcalls, laughter, a few rude comments Here, the 1,000 Soldiers continued to stand at attention, eyes fixed forward. The music started again. The Soldiers continued to quietly stand at attention. And again, at the same point, the music stopped… “You could have heard a pin drop. Every Soldier continued to stand at attention. Suddenly there was a lone voice, then a dozen, and quickly the room was filled with the voices of a thousand soldiers, finishing where the recording left off: ‘And the rockets red glare, The bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night That our flag was still there. Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free, And the home of the brave.’ “It was the most inspiring moment I have had here in Iraq. I wanted you to know what kind of Soldiers are serving you here. Remember them as they fight for you! For many have already paid the ultimate price.” I’ll drive down Ventura Blvd. again next year on November 11. Maybe a few more of you will fly the American Flag. This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave. Journalist/author Elmer Davis Martin Cooper is President of Cooper Communications, Inc. He is President of the Los Angeles Quality and Productivity Commission, Founding President of The Executives, Vice Chairman-Marketing of the Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley, and a member of the Boards of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley and of the LAPD’s West Valley Jeopardy Program. He is a Past Chairman of VICA, Past President of the Public Relations Society of America-Los Angeles Chapter, and Past President of the Encino Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at mcooper@coopercomm.net.

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