Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias Vermillion received a preview of its formal Veterans Day service on Monday, when Coach Gary Culver began to talk about his dad during an assembly to honor the 11A champion Tanager football team.

Culver's dad died last year. He was a great fan of the Tanagers. Over the years, he was able to see a number of their games. He last watched Vermillion play in 1998, when the Tanagers lost in the quarterfinal playoffs to West Central.

"He truly would have loved this football team, and the way they played football," Culver said Monday.

Culver noted that after his father died, he began to reflect on his life, and particularly on what his dad experienced as a young man.

"He was a belly gunner in a B-24 bomber at the tender age of 18 years old," Culver said. "He was flying missions prior to D-Day, and then post D-Day in June of '44."

Maybe I was just imagining things. Maybe it was the gymnasium's poor acoustics, or its public address system.

But I could swear that during this point of Culver's talk, I could hear his voice waver for a few seconds.

"You know, to put things in perspective in terms of football, he never had that opportunity that these guys had," Culver said, referring to members of the 11A football championship team. "He was an outstanding baseball player, but the war took away his great years, and I look back on that and I think that he was in the service (during WWII) during a time (and age) of his life when, today, these guys had an opportunity to play championship football.

"I think that this team would have been very special to him," the coach added, "because they played the game of football the way it was meant to be played. I think he truly would have enjoyed seeing those guys."

Veterans Day is over, but it's not too late to reflect on two simple, but important, questions: Did you remember?

Do you even know why we celebrate Veterans Day?

If you answered no to either of the above questions, read on.

In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. Many people came to the burial and a military ceremony was performed for the Unknown Soldier.

On Nov. 11, people began to celebrate the end of WWI fighting, ending the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. A memorial ceremony for the Unknown Soldier was included during the celebrations.

The day was christened "Armistice Day." Armistice Day became a national holiday, so citizens and military soldiers could pay tribute to the Unknown Soldier and the ending of WWI ("the War to end all wars").

However, WWI was not the last war American soldiers fought, and more than 400,000 soldiers died in the war following the implementation of Armistice Day. To pay tribute and honor all those who served in American wars, a proposal was made to change Armistice Day to Veterans Day. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming Nov. 11 as Veterans Day.

In 1958, two more unknown soldiers were brought home (one killed during WWII and the other killed during the Korean War) and were buried beside the Unknown Soldier. Ceremonies took place on Nov. 11 for the three Unknown Soldiers.

In 1968, the recognition date of Veterans Day was changed to the fourth Monday in October. However, because Nov. 11 was so significant to American history, the recognition date was reverted back to its original date of Nov. 11 in 1978.

During this change, there were only three Unknown Soldiers buried in Arlington Cemetery.

In 1984, another unknown soldier (killed during the Vietnam War) was also buried beside the three other Unknown Soldiers. Presently, an Army honor guard keeps vigil day and night at Arlington Cemetery.

Nov. 11 is now recognized as a day to pay tribute to and honor all American soldiers, living and dead, who served our country.

It's a day set aside to remember Coach Culver's dad, and countless other men and women who sacrificed their energy, talents, and sadly at times, their lives to ensure that we live free.

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