A reader who asked to be identified as "a veteran in Lawrenceville" wrote to say, "I don't know if you'll be writing about Veterans Day this year, but I hope so. This year is sort of special."
I found his letter to be sort of special.
"Veterans Day" he wrote, "derives from Armistice Day, the end of World War I. The Armistice took effect at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918 (11/11/11/18). This year is 2011, so for the first time we will have an unbroken string of elevens, for what that is worth."
The veteran went on to say, "This is the first year when America will mark the holiday without any of its own World War I veterans still living." Frank Buckles, the last of that band and a remarkable man in his own right, died in February (at age 110.)
He also noted that World War I is important because in many ways it gave rise to the modern "veterans' movement." Prior to WWI, society paid little attention to the needs of servicemen and women returning from war, which is well documented in local author Richard Taylor's Homeward Bound: American Veterans Return from War.
Veterans of Foreign Wars had been founded as a small advocacy group in 1899 by veterans returning from the Spanish-American War and gained momentum with the founding of the American Legion in 1919.
Over the years, society has become more conscious of the conditions and needs of our troops returning from war. Local grass roots groups are growing to assist our wounded warriors as they readjust physically and emotionally to civilian life.
One local group, Sentinels of Freedom, with the support of Congressman Rob Woodall and County Commissioner Shirley Lassiter, held a fundraiser this weekend for their first "Sentinel," SSgt Jeremy Wilczek, Silver Star and Purple Heart recipient, to help him return to leading a normal life.
Task Force Patriot, founded by Jim Freeman of Lilburn, serves as a veteran-to-veteran outreach program and holds monthly meetings where veterans can get together with others who understand what it means to serve.
"The next meeting will be on Dec. 3," Freeman said. "We will have one of the most outstanding speakers of our 15-year history. He is USAF General Dan Cherry from Bowling Green, KY. He is the author of a military best-seller, 'My Enemy, My Friend,' a moving story of forgiveness. He engaged a North Vietnamese Mig-21 aircraft over Vietnam, shooting it down, as he documented the engagement on his gun-camera. Following the war, he went back to Vietnam and found the NVA pilot. They became lifelong friends. This meeting will also be a tribute to Korea and Vietnam veterans."
There is nothing special about the date 12-3-11, but it sounds like the event will be not just "sort of," but very special. Deadline for reservations is Nov. 25. For more information visit www.taskforcepatriot.com
Susan Larson is a writer who lives in Lilburn and is the daughter, niece, sister and wife of veterans. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.