Fermi National Laboratory

A Statement from Associate Director Jed Brown about Veterans Day

Jed Brown
Jed Brown
In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River and the nation's capital. The grave became the focal point of reverence for America's veterans. Later, two more unidentified American war heroes were brought from overseas and interred in the plaza beside the unknown soldier of World War I. One was killed in World War II, the other in the Korean War. To honor these men, symbolic of all Americans who gave their lives in all wars, an Army honor guard keeps day and night vigil.

Similar ceremonies have occurred in England and France, where unknown soldiers were buried in each nation's highest place of honor. In England, the site was Westminster Abbey; in France, beneath the Arc de Triomphe. These memorial gestures all took place on November 11, giving universal recognition to the celebrated ending of World War I fighting on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The day became known as "Armistice Day" and officially became a national holiday by Congressional action. If World War I had been "the War to end all Wars" that many hoped, November 11 might still be called Armistice Day. But only a few years after the holiday was proclaimed, war broke out in Europe and many millions of Americans put on the nation's uniform to take part. Other conflicts have followed.

Realizing that veterans of WW II and Korea equally preserved peace, Congress made this day an occasion to honor those who have served America in all wars. In 1954 President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day, a federal holiday to honor all of our nation's veterans of all wars.

As a veteran, Veterans Day is special. Always on that day I pause to reflect on the many I served with in the Armed Forces and their accomplishments and their sacrifices. I also remember with gratitude the men and women who have followed and are wearing the nation's uniforms today servicing this great country all over the world. As I write this I cannot help but be reminded of the email that arrived yesterday informing of a young Army Second Lieutenant, a 2002 graduate of West Point, who was killed earlier this week in Iraq when the vehicle he was traveling in was blown up by a roadside bomb. He leaves behind a young widow he married in August 2003. Veterans Day always brings forth such memories.

The focal point for national ceremonies for Veterans Day continues to be the Tomb of the Unknowns. At 11 a.m. on November 11, the President of the United States, accompanied by a color guard representing all military services, will lay a wreath and a bugler will play "taps." It is a wonderful ceremony. I have attended many times and it is always a thrill. I have also been to the Westminster Abbey and Arc de Triomphe memorials. Each is moving in its own special way.

Fermilab Today readers are urged to honor the service commitment of our veterans to our nation on this holiday. Our veterans will gather for a luncheon at the Kuhn Barn. All are welcome.

last modified 11/10/2003   email Fermilab