The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, World War I ended. Though the Armistice was signed at 5:00 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, the fighting continued till 11:00 a.m., killing nearly 11,000 more men.
In 1921, President Warren Harding had the remains of an unknown soldier killed in France buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. Inscribed on the tomb are the words: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”
On Oct. 4, 1924, at the dedication of the monument to the American Expeditionary Forces in Washington, D.C., President Calvin Coolidge stated: “They did not regard it as a national or personal opportunity for gain or fame or glory, but as a call to sacrifice for the support of humane principles and spiritual ideals. … If anyone doubts the depth and sincerity of the attachment of the American people to their institutions and Government, if anyone doubts the sacrifices which they have been willing to make in behalf of those institutions and for what they believe to be the welfare of other nations, let them gaze upon this monument and other like memorials that have been reared in every quarter of our broad land. Let them look upon the representative gatherings of our veterans, and let them remember that America has dedicated itself to the service of God and man.”
Armistice Day was changed to veterans Day in 1954 to honor all who have served defending the United States. In 1958, President Eisenhower placed soldiers in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWII and the Korean War. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan placed a soldier from the Vietnam War in the tomb. DNA test later identified him as pilot Michael Blassie, a graduate of St. Louis University High School, 1966, and the U.S. Air Force Academy, 1970. Flying an A-37B Dragonfly, he was shot down near An Loc, South Vietnam. In 1998, Michael Blassie was reburied at Jefferson Memorial Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri.
On Nov. 11, 1921, President Harding stated: “On the threshold of eternity, many a soldier, I can well believe, wondered how his ebbing blood would color the stream of human life, flowing on after his sacrifice. … I can sense the prayers of our people. … Let me join in that prayer. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. …”
Charles Michael Province, U.S. Army, wrote the poem:
It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.
President Dwight Eisenhower broadcast from the White House for the American Legion’s Back-to-God Program, Feb. 7, 1954: “As a former soldier, I am delighted that our veterans are sponsoring a movement to increase our awareness of God in our daily lives. In battle, they learned a great truth – that there are no atheists in the foxholes. They know that in time of test and trial, we instinctively turn to God for new courage and peace of mind. All the history of America bears witness to this truth. Out of faith in God, and through faith in themselves as His children, our forefathers designed and built this Republic. …”
Eisenhower continued: “We remember the picture of the Father of our Country, on his knees at Valley Forge seeking divine guidance in the cold gloom of a bitter winter. Thus Washington gained strength to lead to independence a nation dedicated to the belief that each of us is divinely endowed with indestructible rights. We remember, too, that three-fourths of a century later, on the battle-torn field of Gettysburg, and in the silence of many a wartime night, Abraham Lincoln recognized that only under God could this Nation win a new birth of freedom. …”
Eisenhower continued: “Today as then, there is need for positive acts of renewed recognition that faith is our surest strength, our greatest resource. This ‘Back to God’ movement is such a positive act. As we take part in it, I hope that we shall prize this thought: Whatever our individual church, whatever our personal creed, our common faith in God is a common bond among us. In our fundamental faith, we are all one. Together we thank the Power that has made and preserved us a nation. By the millions, we speak prayers, we sing hymns – and no matter what their words may be, their spirit is the same – ‘In God is our trust.'”
On Feb. 20, 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower stated for the American Legion Back-To-God Program: “The Founding Fathers expressed in words for all to read the ideal of Government based upon the dignity of the individual. That ideal previously had existed only in the hearts and minds of men. They produced the timeless documents upon which the Nation is grounded and has grown great. They, recognizing God as the author of individual rights, declared that the purpose of Government is to secure those rights. To you and to me this ideal of Government is a self-evident truth. But in many lands the State claims to be the author of human rights. …”
Eisenhower continued: “The tragedy of that claim runs through all history and, indeed, dominates our own times. If the state gives rights, it can – and inevitably will – take away those rights. Without God, there could be no American form of Government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first-the most basic-expression of Americanism. Thus the Founding Fathers saw it, and thus, with God’s help, it will continue to be. It is significant, I believe, that the American Legion – an organization of war veterans – has seen fit to conduct a ‘Back to God’ movement as part of its Americanism program. veterans realize, perhaps more clearly than others, the prior place that Almighty God holds in our national life. And they can appreciate, through personal experience, that the really decisive battleground of American freedom is in the hearts and minds of our own people. …”
President Dwight Eisenhower concluded: “Each day we must ask that Almighty God will set and keep His protecting hand over us so that we may pass on to those who come after us the heritage of a free people, secure in their God-given rights and in full control of a Government dedicated to the preservation of those rights.”
President Dwight Eisenhower addressed the National Conference on the Spiritual Foundation of American Democracy, Nov. 9, 1954: “We are under tremendous attacks. … We are attacked by the Communists who in their own documents state that capitalism – democracy – carries within itself the seeds of its own destruction. … We are talking about the spiritual foundations of our form of government. … Now Dr. Lowry said something about my having certain convictions as to a God in Heaven and an Almighty power. Well, I don’t think anyone needs a great deal of credit for believing in what seems to me to be obvious. … It seems to me that this relationship between a spiritual faith, a religious faith, and our form of government is so closely defined and so obvious that we should really not need to identify a man as unusual because he recognizes it. …”
Eisenhower added: “Milton asserted that all men are born equal, because each is born in the image of his God. Our whole theory of government finally expressed in our Declaration … give the reasons to mankind why we had established such a government: ‘Man is endowed by his Creator. …’ No matter what Democracy tries to do in terms of maximum individual liberty … in the economic … in the intellectual … in providing a system of justice, and a system of responsibility … when you come back to it, there is just one thing … man is worthwhile because he was born in the image of his God.”
Eisenhower concluded: “The challenges of today … are … because … our spiritual convictions as to the worth-whileness of this form of government, weakens. … Democracy is nothing in the world but a spiritual conviction, a conviction that each of us is enormously valuable, because of a certain standing before our own God. Now, any group that binds itself together to awaken all of us to these simple things … is, in my mind, a dedicated, patriotic group that can well take the Bible in one hand and the a flag in the other, and march ahead.”
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