On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, in the 11th month, we bow our heads and honor those who have served. These are the brave men and women who stood tall and said they would sacrifice all if needed to defend our country and our freedoms.
A bit of history to read to your children. In 1862, the Civil War was raging. Exploding shells, mines, cannonballs, and other weaponry had their devastating effect. In July of that year Congress directed the president to purchase land to be used as national cemeteries for those who have and shall die in service to their country. 14 national cemeteries were established. A few years after the hostilities ended in 1865, 72 national cemeteries had been established and over 305,000 of the estimated total loss of 700,000 were interred from both sides of the conflict. 45% were unknown. Hopewell was one of those cemeteries, and typical in that it is about 10 acres. In the 1870’s Congress expanded the inclusion of who could and should be interred, added, land, headstones, fences, and an administration to oversee and maintain these hallowed grounds.
The concept of Veterans Day began with the end of WWI. While “the war to end all wars,” officially concluded on June 28, 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles, the true halt of violent action came months earlier on Nov. 11, 1918 when an armistice between the Americans and the Germans went into effect. This day is generally regarded as the end of “The Great War.”
In November 1919, President Wilson proposed the original idea of Veterans Day to remember the armistice as well as the “heroism of those who died in the country’s service.” Nov. 11 would be a day to promote peace throughout the world and would feature parades, public meetings and a short break in business until 11 a.m. On May 13, 1938, Act 52 went into effect and officially made Nov. 11 “Armistice Day” and a federal holiday. This day was dedicated to the veterans of WWI. But after WWII, with America’s largest mobilization of troops, multiple veteran’s organizations called for a title change. On June 1,1954, the word “armistice” was replaced with “veterans” and Nov. 11 officially became what it is today — Veterans Day and a holiday to honor the veterans of all wars.
At the National Cemetery in Hopewell members of a local JROTC brigade had arrived early to put an American flag at the headstone of the more than 3500 gravesites. The pictures below show how beautiful and sad the effect.
The national cemeteries are opened to others who died while in service, not just the Civil War and most national cemeteries now contain soldiers from WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and our most recent conflicts. Sadly, many are filling up.
As has become tradition, American flags are put on headstones. Captain Leslie Farris brought members of the 111 Quartermaster Company from Ft. Lee to help the JROTC cadets with this task. First Sargent Ina Williams, and soldiers James McAusland, Greg Watson, Monika Fortin, (shown below) and Samuel Koroma (placing flags) made sure every grave was marked.
To all those buried here, all those who have served, and all those who will serve, thank you from a grateful nation.