20th Century History: Veteran's Day
When I was a child November 11th was called Armistice Day to memorialize the signing of the Armistice with Germany at the end of WWI.....my hometown always had a parade down Main Street with the veterans marching and carrying the flag of their branch of service. As a Spanish-American War Veteran, and someone who was active in the VFW, my father rode in an open car. We were very proud of him. The parade ended at a smaill cemetery at Five Points, where there would be a short Memorial Service with a couple of speakers, and Honor Guard of active service men who walked in to a drum beat and placed the flags in their supports. We would be restless but quiet as my father would give us a look that went to the heart, and none of us wanted to get that look. We knew we were there to remember the men who died in that war and were respectful no matter how cold, hot or windy, until Taps was blown by a bugler and the flags retired by the Honor Guard. When Taps was played and the folded flag given to me at my husband's Memorial Service it brought back those memories. When this was over, all of us, six kids, would get in the family car and my father would drive to the Presidio In San Francisco where he was stationed before shipping out to Manila Bay in 1900. At the Presidio he would walk among the headstones and stop at various places to look out over the Golden Gate, while we were released to lounge on the lawn area across the road.
Holidays were sacred to my father, and this one and Independence Day were the most sacred of all. He was fifty when I was born, and seemed very old, as my classmates had much younger fathers, but my father instilled in me a love of country and an interest in history that is still a part of my life
My husband and I were married the day after Armistice Day in 1944: he was 21 and still in the Navy and had recently returned from New Guinea on a Navy hospital ship; my father was 68 and was working as a Night Watchman at Fort Mason under the Golden Gate Bridge. He had returned to work from his retirement to do this, and drove to San Francisco every night throughout the War, driving home in the early morning and picking up hitch-hiking servicemen along El Camino Real on his way to Redwood City. My mother would be prepared to cook breakfast for anyone he brought home, and with Food Ration Coupons that was not easy. My parents had a generosity of spirit that has largely disappeared in the U.S. and has brought us to a shameful state of greed and selfishness, the worst in remembered history.