A Veterans' Day Thank You
November 11, 2004
As you know, Veterans' Day is formerly Armistice Day which was founded on November 11th, 1918. This date is the anniversary of the Armistice which was signed in the Forest of Compiegne by the Allies and the Germans in 1918, ending World War I. The name was changed to Veterans' Day by Act of Congress on May 24, 1954 to honor all veterans of the U.S. Military. In October of that year, President Eisenhower called on the Citizens of the United States to observe the day by remembering the sacrifices of all those who fought so gallantly, and through rededication to the task of promoting an enduring peace.
The First Proclamation actually honoring your military forefathers was issued on October 19th, 1783 by President Elias Boudinot. The United States had recently signed a Preliminary Peace Treaty with Great Britain on November 30th 1782 and was struggling with the required debt reparations to British Merchants and the loyalists. The United States government was out of money and unable to pay the very soldiers who just won the new nation its Independence. On May 26th, 1783 to avoid the problem of dismissing a standing and grossly underpaid Army, furloughs were freely granted to many soldiers with no intention of requesting their return. The soldiers, eager to visit home, disbanded and dispersed all over the thirteen States without any uproar or disorder. The mutiny crisis was averted as Revolutionary War Historian James Ramsay records in this 1789 account of the incident reports:
"The privates generally betook themselves to labor and crowned the merit of being good soldiers, by becoming good citizens. Several of the American officers, who had been bred mechanics, resumed their trades. In old countries the disbanding a single regiment, even though fully paid, has often produced serious consequences, but in America where arms had been taken up for self defense, they were peaceably laid down as soon as they became unnecessary. As soldiers had been easily and speedily formed in 1775, out of farmers, planters, and mechanics, with equal ease and expedition in the year 1783, they dropped their adventitious character, and resumed their former occupations."
By October 1783 the monetary situation grew more desperate and despite the May furloughs a large standing Army still had to be disbanded. The task was given to none other then George Washington along with President of the United States Elias Boudinot issued this Proclamation:
By the United States in Congress assembled.
Whereas it hath pleased the Supreme Ruler of all human events, to dispose the hearts of the late belligerent powers to put a period to the effusion of human blood, by proclaiming a cessation of all hostilities by sea and land, and these United States are not only happily rescued from the dangers distresses and calamities which they have so long and so magnanimously sustained to which they have been so long exposed, but their freedom, sovereignty and independence ultimately acknowledged by the king of Great Britain. And whereas in the progress of a contest on which the most essential rights of human nature depended, the interposition of Divine Providence in our favour hath been most abundantly and most graciously manifested, and the citizens of these United States have every possible reason for praise and gratitude to the God of their salvation. Impressed, therefore, with an exalted sense of the magnitude of the blessings by which we are surrounded, and of our entire dependence on that Almighty Being, from whose goodness and bounty they are derived, the United States in Congress assembled do recommend it to the several States, to set apart the second Thursday in December next, as a day of public thanksgiving, that all the people may then assemble to celebrate with one voice grateful hearts and united voices, the praises of their Supreme and all bountiful Benefactor, for his numberless favors and mercies. That he hath been pleased to conduct us in safety through all the perils and vicissitudes of the war; that he hath given us unanimity and resolution to adhere to our just rights; that he hath raised up a powerful ally to assist us in supporting them, and hath so far crowned our united efforts with success, that in the course of the present year, hostilities have ceased, and we are left in the undisputed possession of our liberties and independence, and of the fruits of our own land, and in the free participation of the treasures of the sea; that he hath prospered the labour of our husbandmen with plentiful harvests; and above all, that he hath been pleased to continue to us the light of the blessed gospel, and secured to us in the fullest extent the rights of conscience in faith and worship. And while our hearts overflow with gratitude, and our lips set forth the praises of our great Creator, that we also offer up fervent supplications, that it may please him to pardon all our offences, to give wisdom and unanimity to our public councils, to cement all our citizens in the bonds of affection, and to inspire them with an earnest regard for the national honor and interest, to enable them to improve the days of prosperity by every good work, and to be lovers of peace and tranquillity; that he may be pleased to bless us in our husbandry, our commerce and navigation; to smile upon our seminaries and means of education, to cause pure religion and virtue to flourish, to give peace to all nations, and to fill the world with his glory.
Done by the United States in Congress assembled, witness his Excellency Elias Boudinot, our President, this 18th day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-three, and of the sovereignty and independence of the United States of America the eighth."
On the day preceding their dismissing the army, General Washington issued his farewell orders, in the most endearing language. After giving them his advice respecting their future conduct, and bidding them an affectionate farewell, he concluded with these words:
"May ample justice be done them here, and may the choicest of Heaven's favours, both here and hereafter, attend those, who under the divine auspices have secured innumerable blessings for others. With these wishes, and this benediction, the commander in chief is about to retire from service; the curtain of separation will soon be drawn, and the military scene, to him, will be closed forever."
Despite the great strain on the federal government's treasury Congress managed four months wages towards, on average, four years of back pay due the army. As Commander-in-Chief, George Washington sought and accepted no compensation for his services during the revolutionary war effort. This example of George Washington's magnanimity after 8 long years of service and the "good faith" payment, though a trifling 10% of the monies due, enabled these brave men to peacefully disburse into all 13 states.
On November 2, 1783 Washington gave this final order to the 1st Armed Forces of the United States of America:
"The United States in Congress assembled, after giving the most honorable testimony to the Merits of the Federal Armies, and presenting them with the thanks of their Country for their long, eminent and faithful Services, having thought proper, by their Proclamation bearing date the 18th day of October last, to discharge such part of the Troops as were engaged for the War, and to permit the Officers on Furlough to retire from Service from and after tomorrow, which Proclamation having been communicated in the public papers for the information and government of all concerned. it only remains for the Commander in Chief to address himself once more, and that for the last time, to the Armies of the United States (however widely dispersed the Individuals who composed them may be) and to bid them an affectionate--a long farewell.
But before the Commander in Chief takes his final leave of those he holds most dear, he wishes to indulge himself a few moments in calling to mind a slight review of the past, He will then take the liberty of exploring with his Military friends their future prospects, of advising the general line of conduct which in his opinion ought to be persued, and he will conclude the Address, by expressing the obligations he feels himself under for the spirited and able assistance he has experienced from them, in the performance of an arduous Office.
A contemplation of the complete attainment (at a period earlier than could have been expected) of the object for which we contended, against so formidable a power, cannot but inspire us with astonishment and gratitude--The disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the War was undertaken, can never be forgotten--The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving--where the unparalleled perseverance of the Armies of the United States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement, for the space of eight long years was little short of a standing Miracle.
It is not the meaning nor within the compass of this Address, to detail the hardships peculiarly incident to our Service, or to describe the distresses which in several instances have resulted from the extremes of hunger and nakedness, combined with the rigors of an inclement season. Nor is it necessary to dwell on the dark side of our past affairs. Every American Officer and Soldier must now console himself for any unpleasant circumstances which may have occurred, by a recollection of the uncommon scenes in which he has been called to act, no inglorious part; and the astonishing Events of which he has been a witness--Events which have seldom, if ever before, taken place on the stage of human action, nor can they probably ever happen again. For who has before seen a disciplined Army formed at once from such raw Materials? Who that was not a witness could imagine, that the most violent local prejudices would cease so soon, and that Men who came from the different parts of the Continent, strongly disposed by the habits of education, to despise and quarrel with each other, would instantly become but one patriotic band of Brothers? Or who that was not on the spot can trace the steps by which such a wonderful Revolution has been effected, and such a glorious period put to all our Warlike toils?
It is universally acknowledged that the enlarged prospect of happiness, opened by the confirmation of our Independence and Sovereignty, almost exceeds the power of description. And shall not the brave Men who have contributed so essentially to these inestimable acquisitions, retiring victorious from the Field of War, to the Field of Agriculture, participate in all the blessings which have been obtained? In such a Republic, who will exclude them from the rights of Citizens and the fruits of their labors? In such a Country so happily circumstanced the pursuits of Commerce and the cultivation of the Soil, will unfold to industry the certain road to competence. To those hardy Soldiers, who are actuated by the spirit of adventure, the Fisheries will afford ample and profitable employment, and the extensive and fertile Regions of the West will yield a most happy Asylum to those, who, fond of domestic enjoyment are seeking for personal independence. Nor is it possible to conceive that any one of the United States will prefer a National Bankrupcy and a dissolution of the Union, to a compliance with the requisitions of Congress and the payment of its just debts--so that the Officers and Soldiers may expect considerable assistance in recommencing their civil occupations from the sums due to them from the Public, which must and will most inevitably be paid.
In order to effect this desirable purpose, and to remove the prejudices which may have taken possession of the Minds of any of the good People of the States, it is earnestly recommended to all the Troops that with strong attachments to the Union, they should carry with them into civil Society the most conciliating dispositions; and that they should prove themselves not less virtuous and useful as Citizens, than they have been persevering and victorious as Soldiers. What tho' there should be some envious Individuals who are unwilling to pay the Debt the public has contracted, or to yield the tribute due to Merit, yet let such unworthy treatment produce no invective, or any instance of intemperate conduct, let it be remembered that the unbiased voice of the Free Citizens of the United States has promised the just reward, and given the merited applause, let it be known and remembered that the reputation of the Federal Armies is established beyond the reach of Malevolence, and let a consciousness of their achievements and fame, still incite the Men who composed them to honorable Actions; under the persuasion that the private virtues of economy, prudence and industry, will not be less amiable in civil life, than the more splendid qualities of valor, perseverance and enterprise, were in the Field: Every one may rest assured that much, very much of the future happiness of the Officers and Men, will depend upon the wise and manly conduct which shall be adopted by them, when they are mingled with the great body of the Community. And altho', the General has so frequently given it as his opinion in the most public and explicit manner, that unless the principles of the Federal Government were properly supported, and the Powers of the Union increased, the honor, dignity and justice of the Nation would be lost for ever; yet he cannot help repeating on this occasion, so interesting a sentiment, and leaving it as his last injunction to every Officer and every Soldier, who may view the subject in the same serious point of light, to add his best endeavors to those of his worthy fellow Citizens towards effecting these great and valuable purposes, on which our very existence as a Nation so materially depends.
The Commander in Chief conceives little is now waiting to enable the Soldier to change the Military character into that of the Citizen, but that steady and decent tenor of behavior which has generally distinguished, not only the Army under his immediate Command, but the different Detachments and separate Armies, through the course of the War; from their good sense and prudence he anticipates the happiest consequences; And while he congratulates them on the glorious occasion which renders their Services in the Field no longer necessary, he wishes to express the strong obligations he feels himself under, for the assistance he has received from every Class--and in every instance. He presents his thanks in the most serious and affectionate manner to the General Officers, as well for their Counsel on many interesting occasions, as for their ardor in promoting the success of the plans he had adopted--To the Commandants of Regiments and Corps, and to the other Officers for their great Zeal and attention in carrying his orders promptly into execution--To the Staff for their alacrity and exactness in performing the duties of their several Departments--And to the Non-commissioned officers and private Soldiers, for their extraordinary patience in suffering, as well as their invincible fortitude in Action--To the various branches of the Army, the General takes this last and solemn opportunity of professing his inviolable attachment & friendship--He wishes more than bare professions were in his power, that he was really able to be useful to them all in future life; He flatters himself however, they will do him the justice to believe, that whatever could with propriety be attempted by him, has been done. And being now to conclude these his last public Orders, to take his ultimate leave, in a short time, of the Military Character, and to bid a final adieu to the Armies he has so long had the honor to Command--he can only again offer in their behalf his recommendations to their grateful Country, and his prayers to the God of Armies. May ample justice be done them here, and may the choicest of Heaven's favors both here and hereafter attend those, who under the divine auspices have secured innumerable blessings for others: With these Wishes, and this benediction, the Commander in Chief is about to retire from service--The Curtain of separation will soon be drawn--and the Military Scene to him will be closed for ever.
To all our Veterans who are no longer serving in the armed forces we say "thank you for preserving our Freedom in the land of the people, for the people and by the people." To the men and women currently serving and especially those in harms way in Iraq and Afghanistan we say:
Like the Revolutionary Armed Forces at Yorktown in 1781, you are now engaged in a war that for all intents and purposes was "militarily won" in Afghanistan and Iraq when their respective governments collapsed. Like our forefathers of 1781 you are now expected to keep the peace until the politicians, statesmen, and stateswomen can form the representative governments of Iraq and Afghanistan. Unlike the forefathers of 1781 you are asked to accomplish this mission in a foreign land rife with hatred and mistrust of the United States despite our national intent to replace tyranny with self-government and like the soldiers of 1776 peacefully return to our homes. Your sacrifices in the 2nd Millennium are no less significant than those George Washington and his fellow patriots made to secure our independence in 19th Century.
Today, no longer protected by the great oceans the U.S. finds itself in an era of nuclear proliferation and terrorism so vile that it threatens the peace, freedom, and prosperity won and preserved by 11 generations of U.S. Patriots. It has been our earnest hope that it would not take 13 long years, as it did in the United States, to form a political system in Afghanistan and Iraq that could successfully govern. To our surprise the recent elections in Afghanistan have culminated into a representative government years before any reasonable expectations. What a remarkable triumph that accomplishment is for the U.S. Military. Meanwhile in Iraq, despite the people being browbeaten by the invasion of radical Islamic terrorists from Syria and Iran, the interim government is boldly moving forward to early 2005 elections. This second Muslim road to form the Iraq Republic is a modern day miracle that will surely divide the two terrorist states of Iran and Syria. When completed, these two new republics will be hailed as one of the greatest foreign policy successes in United States History. All thanks to you, the Armed Forces of the United States of America.
May God keep and bless during this great struggle for international freedom.
With sincere admiration and thanks, I am
Stanley L. Klos
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