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Veterans Day

November Eleventh is Veterans Day in the United States. It honors the men and women of the American military forces. I'm Mary Tillotson. And I'm Steve Ember. The history of Veterans Day is our report today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

More than nineteen-million men and women living in the United States have fought in the nation's wars. Some of these people now are very old. Each day, one-thousand-five-hundred war veterans die.

The United States Congress did not want the nation to lose its chance to hear the veterans' stories. So, in October two-thousand, lawmakers created the Veterans History Project.

The Library of Congress Folklife Center is gathering material for this project. The center is asking war veterans for recorded histories, letters, written memories, maps, photographs and home movies. The Veterans History Project includes veterans of World Wars One and Two. It also includes people who served in the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. All men and women who took part are invited to share their memories. This includes civilian helpers. In addition, all Americans are invited to talk to veterans who are family members and record their memories.

Now we will tell about some of these conflicts and the Americans who fought in them.

((BATTLE SOUNDS))

World War One. At the time, it was called "the war to end all wars." But, as everyone knows, other wars would be fought later. About two-million Americans served in Europe during World War One. More than one-hundred-sixteen-thousand of them were killed. Another two-hundred-thirty-five-thousand were wounded.

The United States entered World War One in Nineteen-Seventeen. Its armed forces were very small. To prepare for war, the government ordered every man between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one to report for military duty.

The men came from cities and farms. Some were rich. Some were poor. There were doctors, lawyers, businessmen, professional athletes and college students. Many were married. More than nine-and-one-half million men reported for duty in June, Nineteen-Seventeen. About six-hundred-thousand were chosen to serve. They were sent to military camps for training before going to France.

The following year, the government expanded the call to serve in the military. It called on all men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. More than thirteen-million reported for duty. The Army did not have enough bases to train all the new soldiers. So, it used many colleges and universities as military training centers.

The Navy and Marine Corps had about eighty-two-thousand men when the United States entered World War One. A year later, there were almost three times that many sailors and Marines.

Many women joined the armed forces, too. Most women got office jobs at military bases in the United States. Some, however, went to France as nurses in battlefield hospitals. Their work made it possible for more men to fight.

((MUSIC: "OVER THERE"))

Finally, World War One ended. Germany surrendered at eleven o'clock in the morning on November Eleventh, Nineteen-Eighteen. It was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. On that day, thousands of Americans were completing their military training in the United States. Others were either in France or on boats sailing to France.

They had arrived there in troop ships over a period of about eighteen months. It would take almost that long to bring them home. While they waited to return, many had a chance to see the sights of France -- especially Paris.

To the young men who grew up in big cities such as New York or Chicago, Paris was just another big city. But to the young men who grew up on farms or in small towns, Paris was unlike anything they had ever seen.

When the war ended, American soldiers wanted to return to the life they knew before going to France. Almost overnight, the number of troops in the American armed services dropped to what it had been before the war.

In Nineteen-Nineteen, President Woodrow Wilson signed a declaration naming November Eleventh as Armistice Day in the United States. It would be a day to honor the men and women who had served in the American armed forces during World War One.

In Nineteen-Twenty-Six, Congress made Armistice Day a national holiday. The federal government would close that day. Most state and local governments, and all public schools would close, too. Parades in almost every city honored the men and women who had helped bring peace to Europe. But even as they celebrated, new problems were on the way.

The United States soon began to suffer severe economic problems. The stock market crashed in Nineteen-Twenty-Nine. Thousands of businesses closed. Many people lost their homes and all the money they had saved. In the early Nineteen-Thirties, huge dust storms destroyed farmland in the middle western states. Families were forced to move to other states to find work.

Then political troubles began to appear in other parts of the world, especially in Europe and Asia. Soon, everyone knew that World War One had not been the war to end all wars.

((BATTLE SOUNDS))

More than four-million Americans served in the armed forces during the First World War. Four times that many would serve in the military during the next war.

Most Americans who served in World War Two were young -- eighteen or nineteen years old. They were the sons and daughters of World War One veterans. They too hoped their war would be a final one.

A few Americans were called back to duty because of their experience in World War One. Others joined because they had no jobs. The military gave them food, clothes and a place to sleep.

The United States entered World War Two in Nineteen-Forty-One. Germany surrendered in May, Nineteen-Forty-Five, ending the war in Europe. Japan surrendered in August of that year, ending the war in the Pacific area.

Armistice Day in Nineteen-Forty-Five was a very special day in the United States. Most of the men and women who had fought in the war had returned home. So, instead of just honoring veterans of World War One that year, Americans also honored veterans of World War Two.

((MUSIC: "ANCHORS AWEIGH"))

In Nineteen-Fifty-Four, Congress decided to change the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day. By then almost six-million more Americans had served in another military campaign -- the Korean War.

The number of veterans has continued to grow. Almost nine-million Americans served in the military during the Vietnam War. And thousands of others took part in military campaigns in the Caribbean nation of Grenada and in Panama.

Hundreds of thousands of men and women served during the Persian Gulf War. Thousands also served as members of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Somalia.

Other American troops served to return the elected president to power in Haiti. And they helped keep peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Serbian province of Kosovo.

American troops defeated and ousted the Taleban rulers in Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks on the United States in Two-Thousand-One. Troops still are searching for Taleban and al-Qaida fighters there.

The term "veteran" is not restricted to those who served only during wartime. It includes anyone who has served in the military at any time. On November Eleventh, America's military veterans will be remembered with ceremonies and parades in cities and towns across the nation. The president and other public officials will speak at Veterans Day ceremonies.

Americans will observe the anniversary of Veterans Day. They will honor the men and women of the armed forces who have served their country in war and in peace.

(MUSIC: "SEMPER FIDELIS" MARCH)

This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by Cynthia Kirk. I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Mary Tillotson. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.


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Source: THIS IS AMERICA - November 11, 2002: Veterans Day
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