As with many things in 2020, honoring our veterans on this holiday will be different this year. First the history. On June 28, 1919 World War I officially ended. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website, “fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” That was November 11, 1918.
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of “Armistice Day.” The original concept for celebrations was “for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m.” On June 4, 1926, the United States Congress passed a resolution to commemorate “with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” Further they requested the president “to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11.” They invited people “to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies…” In May 1938 it was made a legal holiday called “Armistice Day.”
As we know, World War I wasn’t “the war to end wars” as originally thought. World War II followed requiring “the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the nation’s history.” After that, the Korean War occurred. So, the original act of 1938 was amended in June 1954. Armistice Day became Veteran’s Day, “a day to honor American veterans of all wars.” In 1968 they attempted to move the holiday so that it fell on a Monday and created a three-day weekend. Many states did not agree and continued celebrating it on the eleventh of November. In 1975, President Ford returned the annual observance to its original date starting in 1978 as “A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”
Traditionally, many communities in Sonoma County do just that. Petaluma hosts a Veteran’s Day Parade. It’s huge. Floats, bands, honor guards, veterans marching and crowd’s cheering watching hundreds of entries go by. The route ends at the Petaluma Veterans Building where crowds are treated to hot dogs, chips and beverages. Not this year. In Rohnert Park, the city would coordinate putting up flags at the community center. Speakers and choral groups would present to the attendees remarks and music. I had the privilege of being a guest speaker at an event back in the 90s when I was still on active duty. Not this year. Events would be also held in Santa Rosa at the Veterans Building across from the Fairgrounds. Not this year.
Robert Safreno said we’re “really disappointed that we can’t get together to honor our veterans this year.” Safreno is the Adjutant for the American Legion Post in Cotati and Rohnert Park. His post normally provides approximately 25 flags of deceased veterans to fly during Veteran’s Day activities at the community center. His post also coordinates the annual “Avenue of Flags” event at the center for Memorial Day. It also didn’t happen this year because of COVID.
But not all is lost. The city plans to hold a virtual event on Veteran’s Day. According to Amanda Foley, the city’s Community Services supervisor, a small ceremony to honor our veterans will be live streamed on the Community Service’s Facebook Page. Mayor Joseph Callinan will be the Master of Ceremonies. A veteran keynote speaker will deliver some remarks. The event will commence at 11 a.m. on November 11.
Captain Andy Durkee, USCG (Ret.) will also present the city banners as part of the city’s banner program. As previously reported in our article of November 16, 2018: “The Rohnert Park Armed Forces Banner Program was created in 2011 for our community to honor and recognize individuals on active duty in the military. These members either reside in or have immediate family members who reside or work in the City of Rohnert Park, or have attended local schools. This Banner Program is supported with funding provided by local sponsors and the banners will be printed and installed as funds become available. Additional information and an application can be found on the website: www.starspangledbanners.org. For more information, Durkee, who is the RP Military Banner Program Coordinator, can be contacted at: (707) 584-5109 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.”