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(Today marks my 500th post.  Thanks for sticking with me!)

This post was scheduled to be published at 11 a.m. (EST), today, November 11, 2011:  Veterans Day.  Originally called Armistice Day, it was first observed on the first anniversary of the ceasefire of World War I. It is a day to honor and remember all veterans, living and dead, who are serving, or have served our nation through military service in war and peacetime. The Treaty at Versailles, which officially ended the war was not signed and ratified until June of 1919.

Here a few random facts about this day in history:

In 1926, Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance.
In 1938, Nov. 11 became a national holiday.
In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation changing the name to  Veterans Day to honor veterans of all American wars.
In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed by Congress, which moved the celebration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. The law went into effect in 1971, but in 1975 President Ford returned Veterans Day to November 11, due to the important historical significance of the date.

Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the veterans of World Wars I and II on or near November 11th: Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain has Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday of November). In Europe, Britain and the Commonwealth countries it is common to observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. every November 11.

There were 21.9 million military veterans in the U.S. in 2009.

Thirty-five percent of all living veterans served during the
Vietnam War. In 2009, there were:

7.6 million Vietnam-era veterans., representing 35% of living U.S. Veterans

4.5 million Gulf War veterans. (August 1990 to present)

2.3 million World War II veterans. (1941-1945)

2.7 million veterans of the Korean War. (1950-1953)

47,000 veterans of both the Vietnam and Gulf War eras.

Veterans earned a median income of $35,402 in 2009. But in 2008, figures showed 5.7% of veterans lived in poverty.

5.5 million veterans had a disability when surveyed in 2009.

15.8 million veterans voted in the 2008 presidential election.  That’s 71% of all veterans, compared with 63 % of non-veterans.

14 million veterans voted in the 2006 congressional election.  That’s 61% of all veterans, compared with only 46% of civilians with no military service.

A quarter of veterans 25 and older held at least a bachelor’s degree. 92% of that age group held at least a high school diploma, compared with 85 percent of the general population.

5.5 million veterans had a disability when surveyed in 2009.

These statistics (from the U. S. Census) have probably changed significantly as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have continued.

We have so much to be grateful for.  The freedoms we have today have been bought at a tremendous, incalculable cost. May all of you, my Gentle Readers, take the time to offer thanks and respect for all the men and women who have served or are serving in the armed forces.

Below is a poem I wrote and posted last spring, but it is appropriate today especially.

 The Lad With Two Good Eyes

 When I was a lad I had two good eyes, see -
 And there weren’t nothin’ could ever surprise me.
 Me Da took me huntin’ for deer and quail -
 Hardly a time did m'gun an’ me fail.

 Wherever I went the lassies would follow,
 Somethin’ their laddies found hard to swallow.
 But I had a smile, and a winnin’ way -
 T’was a right smart dancer, least that’s what
      they’d say.

 Never thought much about settlin’ down -
 Too much fun bein’ “best bloke” in town!
 But sooner or later they’d all want a ring,
 And expected me to want the same thing.

 I didn’t care much what they wanted or thought,
 T’wasn’t ever too long before we fought.
 I'd leave them behind to their tears and sighs,
 Never was much for farewells or goodbyes.

 But the world got in trouble, and went to war,
 And I had what me country was lookin’ for:
 A fella with two good eyes who could shoot.
 So I joined with me mates, and we learned to salute.

 They shipped us off with our guns to fight,
 Told us to kill, that our cause was right.
 So I’d kill when I had to; I saw comrades die,
 ‘Til an enemy’s bullet took out me left eye.

 They fixed what they could, told me I was well,
 I got discharged and went home for a spell.
 With less of a swagger, not much of a smile,
 I roam through the city for mile after mile.

 Some of the lassies who knew me when,
 Will stop, smile politely, hurry off again.
 “The kids are home waitin’! Gotta run!” they say,
 But I know they’s tryin’ to get away.

 I wish ‘em well, then turn to go,
 I understand, but even so
 I wonder 'bout the kind o’ life
 I might’ve had if I’d taken a wife.

 Me life as a laddie before the war
 Is gone, replaced now by a scar
 That cuts down deep beneath me skin
 Shows me what else I lost back then.

The lad with the smile and two good eyes,
The one who could dance, but wanted no ties,
Stands alone in the crowd each Armistice Day,
Salutes when the flag is paraded his way.

And when the day’s over, the sun has set,
He ponders the life he has now as a vet,
And remembers when nothin caught him by surprise,
The lad with the smile and two good eyes.

Photo by Fee Easton

I wish you all the abundance of enough. . .

(wc 902)