Veterans Day in the US began life on Nov. 11, 1919 as Armistice Day, to mark the end of World War I - the "war to end all wars." In 1954 the name was changed to Veterans Day to honor all living veterans of our armed forces. In 1968, the holiday joined other floating days to allow three-day weekends for federal employees, but understandable umbrage from veterans forced the US Congress to revert back to the original observance date a decade later.
Just a few American veterans of World War I are still alive, all over 100 years old. They're joined by a scattering of centenarians across Europe, Canada and Australia. Very soon, the last living links to it will be gone.
According to the most recent data I could find from the US Department of Veterans Affairs:
■ There are 2.9 million American veterans of World War II still alive. More than 1,000 die each day. Fifteen years from now, based on population and mortality rates, it's estimated the number of members of the Greatest Generation will have dwindled to 115,000.
■ The number of living American veterans of the Korean War is also about 2.9 million, while 7.23 million Vietnam vets are still alive. And 2.27 million veterans of the first Gulf War live among us. There are more than 600,000 living veterans of the Global War on Terror, the official name of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
All told, 23.7 million veterans of the Armed Services are still living. That's a lot of people to thank.
My father served in the Navy as a radar operator on the USS Norris, a destroyer, for three years, one month and four days. He enlisted in St Louis after graduating from high school in Willow Springs, Montana, and went to Radarman School in Norfolk, Virginia, where his pay grade was US$300 a month. By the time he left the service in July 1954, he had received a US$100 raise and four medals related to his service in the waters off Korea during that conflict.
Next Saturday and Sunday the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society and the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei are holding Remembrance Weekend, an annual event honoring the more than 4,300 Allied prisoners of war held in Taiwan during World War II. On Saturday, a POW Banquet will take place at 6:30pm at the Imperial Hotel. The banquet honors former POWs and provides an opportunity to meet them and listen to their stories. On Sunday, buses will take participants to the Remembrance Day Service, held at POW Memorial Park, site of the former Kinkaseki POW Camp in Jhinguashih (金瓜石) near Jiufen (九份). Following the service everyone is invited to join together for a time of fellowship over a picnic lunch.
* Tickets for Sunday's POW Banquet are NT$1,000 per person and reservations are required. Doors open at 6pm. The Imperial Hotel is located at 600 Linsen N Rd, Taipei (台北市林森北路600號)
* Chartered buses depart for the Remembrance Day Service on Sunday at 8:45am from 365 Fuxing N Rd, Taipei (北市復興北路365號). Tickets are NT$300 and reservations are required
* For more information or to make reservations,
call Crystal Hsu at the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei at (02) 2544-3461 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline for reservations is 5pm Wednesday.
-source: taipei times
I found his discharge and other service-related papers a few weeks ago when cleaning out a safety deposit box of my parents. There's a wallet card certifying my dad an honorably discharged veteran of the armed services. Below that is his radarman certificate and a notice of his eligibility for veteran's benefits, along with other official documents - all faded now, a few creased and fragile because my dad carried them in his billfold.
Tucked inside the file folder is a small line drawing of the ship, which reminds me of the faded color photograph of the Norris that hung in my parents' Longview home for many years. I guess it's packed away in the few dozen boxes of family memorabilia now in storage.
My dad joined the Navy out of patriotism and to see the world - and that he did. The Norris sailed a peacetime mission through the Mediterranean and then was sent through the Suez Canal to Korea. He saw combat but always downplayed the experience, pointing out the relative safety of life on a destroyer when compared with that of infantrymen fighting in the bitter cold of a Korean winter.
In The Coldest Winter, his last book before dying in a car crash earlier this year, writer David Halberstam described the Korean War, coming just five years after the end of World War II, as a: "Grinding, limited war. Nothing very good, the nation quickly decided, was going to come out of it. When servicemen returned from their tours, they found their neighbors generally not interested in what they had seen and done. The subject of the war was quickly dispensed with in conversation. Events on the home front, promotions at the office, the purchase of a new house or a new car were more compelling subjects."