DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. -- On November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day as a way to commemorate the end of World War I in 1918.
During a speech announcing Armistice Day, Wilson proclaimed, "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"
Later in 1938 Armistice Day became a federal holiday. However, it wasn't until 1954 that Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day as a way to honor all veterans, including those from World War II and the Korean War.
One hundred years later, Americans continue to proudly honor the veterans of the armed forces who heroically fought to protect this nation's freedom. For U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command teammates, Veterans Day gave them an opportunity to reflect and say thank you to those willing to risk everything.
As part of this reflection, the Detroit Arsenal held its annual Veterans Day observance on November 7. The keynote speakers for the event were Rich Homberg, president and CEO of Detroit Public Television, and Keith Famie, director and producer of documentary films.
Homberg opened the program by talking about the work DPTV has done and continues to do to support Michigan's veterans and the U.S. Army. He talked about the relationship that DPTV has built over the years with the Army and how important it is to tell the story of the Army and veterans to the residents of southeast Michigan.
"When I first joined Detroit Public Television ten years ago, everything said that we needed to engage more on important issues," Homberg explained. "That we needed to understand how to better serve southeast Michigan. And one of those issues is to better understand our military audience."
"And as it happens, TACOM is facing a very similar challenge," Homberg stated. "Your story is not easily understood and not easily told to southeast Michigan."
He ended by introducing Keith Famie, who he said was not only a friend, but a strong advocate and voice for veterans.
Stepping up to the podium, Famie spoke about the importance of capturing and telling veterans' stories to the American public before it was too late, and to address the needs of veterans in the local community.
"When I was asked by Rich to speak to the group today, I thought about what I wanted to say and I decided that it was important for you not to hear my voice, but instead the voices of veterans. So I picked four stories from my documentary 'Our Vietnam Generation' as a way to let you hear stories about veterans from veterans. The stories illustrate a different part of a veteran's personal experience during the Vietnam War."
"The decision to set out to document the Vietnam veteran story here in Michigan was not a difficult one," Famie stated. "Over the years of filming within the various communities in Michigan, I became very aware of how important a role veterans play in our everyday society. The difficult part came in how strong the negative stigma of the Vietnam War was and how the memory of such a turbulent time in America would impact the actual support needed for this kind of a production."
All the stories showcased the veterans' acts of valor and selflessness, but one story that stood out was that of John Colone. The infantryman was shot five times in a 45-minute period during an ambush in February 1968 while in Vietnam.
Colone recounts how he remembered being naked and hearing someone say, "Leave Colone alone, he's dead." He dreamt that he kept rolling off a pile of logs in the dark. At a reunion of his unit years later, he said he was introduced to a guy he didn't remember, and the guy's eyes got real big and he yelled: "You made it! You made it! I found you in a body bag!" That's when he learned that the logs he had dreamed about were actually a pile of bodies in the morgue and that he had rolled off twice before it was discovered that he was still alive.
"There is nothing more gratifying than being able to touch people through the documentary film work that we do. I know we can affect people's lives," Famie stated.
In addition to this observance, TACOM teammates participated in numerous other Veterans Day events throughout the country this year. From Michigan to New York, Alabama to Texas and California, teammates served as keynote speakers, honor guard members and more in celebrating and recognizing veterans.