Holidays - some don't care about the reason, they just enjoy the day off

Arlington National Cemetary, near Arlington, VA

Arlington National Cemetary, near Arlington, VA

Most United States citizens celebrate holidays, but many honestly don't have a clue to exactly why the holiday is so important to our country and/or the meaning behind it.

They only know that it is a day off from work, the banks are closed and they definitely can't get something accomplished at a government facility such as the Motor Vehicle Department, the unemployment office and/or Social Security Administration.

In many cases, the people celebrating the specific holidays were not even alive when the reason for the celebration or remembrance occurred.

I was having this discussion with a friend of mine a couple of days ago about celebration/remembrance days and he told me Patriot Day on September 11 irks (actually he used a word I can't print) him because Islamic terrorists are the ones who actually chose to attack on that particular day. And of course, the terrorists ultimately caused the United States to select that particular day to remember the incident as a national holiday. It always seems as if the United States chooses specific days to remember horrific events and attacks upon our great nation; thus the attacker ultimately chooses the date for the holiday.

Don't get me wrong because I understand the families of the nearly 3,000 innocent victims (some of which were not even Americans) and all Americans in general, will never forget that Islamic terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Most people believe it was the worst attack on American soil and they are correct if they are only using the body-count method. I hate to use the aforementioned term, but all nations seem to utilize the body-count method when determining the failure and/or success of a particular battle or attack.

Today, September 11 is called Patriot Day and it marks the attack on American soil by Islamic terrorists.

But if you don't use the body-count method just for a particular initial attack, many have forgotten there was another attack on American soil that ultimately caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans.

I would venture to say that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, caused more deaths. No, I am not attempting to lessen the Islamic terrorists' three-prong-aircraft attack on the United States, but am only saying there was also another attack on our soil that ultimately caused the deaths of more Americans.

Yes, the initial attack by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941, only killed 2,008 U.S. Navy personnel, 109 U.S. Marines, 218 U.S. Army and 68 civilians for a total of 2,403. Close to two thirds of them died in the first 15 minutes of the battle when the U.S.S. Oklahoma, Utah and Arizona battleships were bombed and an additional 1,178 Americans were wounded during the initial attack.

World War II actually began a couple of years earlier - 1939 to be exact, but the United States' involvement then was only on the periphery by selling and providing goods to our allies. The United States actually didn't declare war on the Axis Powers until Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Some might ask why the Japanese decided to bomb the United States? The reason actually thrusted our nation into World War II. Our involvement began due to the U.S. placing an embargo on Japan during September 1940; by prohibiting exports of steel, scrap iron, and aviation fuel to Japan, and Japan's takeover of northern French Indochina. The Soviets were close to being defeated by the Axis Powers and Japan seized the opportunity to try to take the oil resources of Southeast Asia. The U.S. wanted to stop the Japanese expansion; however most of the American people were not willing to go to war to stop it. However, Japan thought the U.S. would probably declare war against them so they decided to cripple the U.S. Pacific Fleet, based in Pearl Harbor. To ensure they could accomplish their mission, the Japanese navy decided to cripple the Pacific Fleet by a surprise air attack. In one quick military maneuver, the Japanese navy scored a brilliant battle strategy; however, they assured their ultimate defeat. They woke a sleeping giant.

The United States involvement, other than the time spent supplying of our allies to prior to Dec. 8, 1941, lasted until Aug. 15, 1945 when Japan surrendered ending the war. The United States' actual fighting was only for a total of 1,347 days and when the war ended; more than four hundred thousand Americans lost their lives. Today, it is estimated that approximately two million World War II veterans are still living.

There are other dates we celebrate or remember events and incidents that have impacted our lives. I'm only going to mention a few, but I won't have them in any particular chronological order.

An example is the Fourth of July. If you ask a young person, he or she might not know the reason for the celebration, but they will tell you it is a day off from school and a chance to shoot off some fireworks.

This day of celebration/remembrance came about because of our relationship with Great Britain and how they continued raising taxes of the residents of the new world (that's America if you haven't ever heard that term).

Our Founders, better known as the colonists, felt in the years leading up to 1776, Great Britain had kept trying to make the colonists follow more rules and pay higher taxes. The colonists started getting mad and made plans to be able to make their own rules and no longer wanted Great Britain to be able to tell them what to do. So the colonists decided to tell Great Britain we wanted to become an independent country and govern ourselves. This is why we adopted the Declaration of Independence and why the British invaded what now is the United States.

It is estimated that about 250,000 men served as regulars or as militiamen for the Revolutionary cause in the eight years of the war, but there were never more than 90,000 total men under arms at one time.

At least 25,000 Loyalists fought on the side of the British in addition to 13,000 Native Americans who fought on the British side, with the largest group of about 1,500 coming from the Iroquois tribes

About 7,200 Americans died in battle during the eight-year American Revolutionary War that is also known as the American War of Independence from 1775 through 1783. Another 10,000 died from disease or exposure and about 8,500 died in British prisons for a total of 25,700 American deaths.

Another date we used to honor was called Armistice Day and that used to fall on Sept. 11, the celebration of end of World War I in 1918. World War I was deemed the war to stop all wars. Boy, did they get that wrong. All you have to do is think about all the other wars and conflicts our nation has been involved in since then and what is currently occurring in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Why did World War I occur? The average person of today doesn't have any idea. Well, it all started when Germans were sinking unarmed U.S. merchant ships. The United States insisted that, while neutral, our country should be able to trade with all nations including those at war with each other. The Germans continued to sink all merchant and passenger vessels without any respect to the flag of a neutral country.

The United States lodged numerous protests and the Germans finally agreed to limit submarine warfare for most of 1916. However on Feb. 1, 1917, the Germans again began unrestricted submarine warfare against unarmed U.S. merchant ships. The German sunk two American vessels, the Housatonic in February 1917 and the Algonquin March 1917, in addition to three more merchant ships immediately following. That is what finally caused the United States entry into the war.

April 16, 1917, the United States officially entered World War I and our actual combat involvement was for only for about 604 days and it is estimated that 405,000 Americans died; 275,000 were combat related deaths and 130,000 non-combat deaths.

I thought all of the World War I veterans have passed away, but when I did a search of the Internet, I came up with the name Frank Woodruff Buckles. Buckles was born Feb. 1, 1901, joined the military when he was 16 years old and now is "a young" 109. He resides on Gap View Farm in Jefferson County, WV, where he can see Harper's Ferry from his front porch. Research shows Buckles was also a civilian prisoner of war in World War II, having been captured as a civilian employee of a shipping company in the Philippines.

Armistice Day was originally set as a United States legal holiday to honor the end of World War I, which officially occurred on Nov. 11, 1918. In legislation that was passed in 1938, Nov. 11 was dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day. As such, this new legal holiday only honored World War I veterans.

In 1954, the 83rd U.S. Congress, at the urging of the numerous veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word Armistice and inserting the word Veterans. With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, Nov. 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

A couple of military engagements (I use that term loosely) the United States was involved in are not even deemed wars; they are only referred to as conflicts. They are The Korean Conflict and The Vietnam Conflict, but if you ask any former military person who served in either of the two conflicts, they'll say they were a war and will tell you war is Hell.

The Korean Conflict came about because of what was occurring on the 38th Parallel (an imaginary border separating North and South Korea) and the increased hostilities between the two Koreas. Even though reunification negotiations went on for many months preceding the conflict, tension between the two Koreas continued to escalate. Cross-border skirmishes and raids at the 38th Parallel persisted. The situation escalated into open warfare when North Korean forces invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. The United Nations, basically the United States, came to rescue of South Korea and thus the Korean Conflict began the same day.

The Korean Conflict has never officially ended; there is a cease fire in effect when an armistice was signed on July 27, 1953. You might ask why I say officially and the reason is we still have American troops stationed on the 38th Parallel as a peace keeping force. The conflict actually only lasted for only about 1,127 days and it is estimated that there were more than 192,000 American casualties which included 33,741 (military and civilians) deaths as a result of our fighting against North Korea. One interesting tidbit is most who served in The Korean Conflict were also veterans of World War II.

The United States government's involvement in the Vietnam Conflict was because our officials viewed it as a way to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam and part of their wider strategy of containment of communism. The United States actually had military advisory personnel serving in South Vietnam beginning in 1950 and our involvement substantially escalated in the early 1960s. Despite the Paris Peace Accords, signed by all parties in January 1973, fighting continued. The capture of Saigon by the North Vietnamese army in April 1975 marked the end of the Vietnam War and North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year.

Our country's involvement in the Vietnam Conflict lasted for about 5,569 days and is it estimated the average age of our military personnel serving there was only 22 years old. There were more than 58,236 American casualties (the estimates vary depending upon what source you view) that included 19 civilians and 11,465 who died were less than 20 years old. One out of every 10 Americans who served in Vietnam was a casualty and that equates to 303,644 military personnel being wounded in action.

Sergeant Paul J Raber was the youngest casualty of the Vietnam War. As a member of the Air Force, SGT Raber served our country until Aug. 14, 1970 in Thailand in support of the Vietnam Conflict. He was 16 years old and died from unknown causes. SGT Raber's name is inscribed on panel 01W, line 128 of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.

Storekeeper First Class Kenna Clyde Taylor was the oldest casualty of the Vietnam Conflict. As a member of the Navy, SK1 Taylor served our country until Sept. 21, 1970 in Quang Tin, South Vietnam. He was 62 years old and was married. Kenna died from a heart attack. SK1 Taylor's name is inscribed on panel 07W, line 082 of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. He served our country for 22 years.

Another day of remembrance is called Memorial Day and it honors service members who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle. Deceased veterans are also remembered on Veterans Day, but the day is also set aside to thank and honor living veterans who served honorably in the military; in wartime or peacetime.

Many of the celebrations and remembrance days relate directly to horrific events and attacks upon our great nation. Others celebrate the ending of something such as a war or a conflict.

Today, there are thousands United States men and women serving our country in harm's way. We must continually take time to say thanks to them for their loyal and dedicated service to our country.

The next day of celebration/remembrance is rapidly approaching and that's Constitution Day, also known as Citizenship Day, on Sept. 17. We recognize this day as a commemoration of the ratification and signing of the United States Constitution by thirteen men on Sept. 17, 1787.

One fact that most do not know is the Space Shuttle Enterprise (NASA Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-101) was originally planned to be named Constitution. Even after the name was changed, the shuttle was dedicated on Constitution Day, 1976. On Nov. 18, 1985, the Space Shuttle Enterprise was ferried to Washington, D.C., where it became property of the Smithsonian Institution.

Next time a holiday approaches, just don't accept it as a day off from work or school. Take the time to research the particular holiday and if someone says they don't know why it is a holiday, take the time to explain exactly why the holiday is so important to our country and/or the meaning behind it.