HOHENFELS, Germany -- In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared Nov. 11 Armistice Day in remembrance of Germany's signing of the Armistice that effectively ended major hostilities of the First World War on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918.
Initially intended to honor those fallen in "the war to end all wars," World War II veteran Raymond Weeks successfully lobbied to have the holiday expanded to recognize all veterans, and Weeks led the first national celebration in 1947. It would take another seven years for Congress to officially change the holiday's name to Veterans Day.
Similar holidays are celebrated by the allied nations of World War I and whether it is called Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, or Veterans Day, it is a day to honor veterans for their service and sacrifice.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website states that the original concept of the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings. To this day, across America, this tradition is still observed as Americans honor not only the 650,000 service members who have died in battle or the 1.4 million wounded, but also the 25 million veterans still living and serving today.
This year, Hohenfels celebrated with one of its largest parades in recent memory, Nov. 8.
Children thronged the streets waving flags and scrambling for candy. Fire trucks, ATVs and tanks rumbled down the street with the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, leadership and a company of Soldiers marching along behind. Various organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Boy and Girl Scouts, and high school scholar athletes among others also joined in.
"Being as we are a military community, we kind of take small town America to a different level, because everyone on the installation in some shape or form has a tie with the military, whether it is a teacher working with the children of a veteran or the PX worker helping a veteran buy goods," said Christopher D. Koivisto, U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization, and Security chief of operations.
"And we just wanted to show our veterans our appreciation for what they've done and continue to do on a daily basis. It was great to see so many people out supporting the parade."
"I mean, that's who the parade is for -- the community," he added. "It's for that veteran who's marching in the parade to get that tear in his eye when he sees the little kids out there waving the flag. It's for the little kids to see what their daddy does, so they can tap their buddy on the shoulder and say 'that's my dad.'"
After the parade, wreaths were laid by the VFW Post 10557 and the Booker T. Washington Masonic Lodge. Twelve-year-old Patrick Williams shared his Patriots Pen contest winning essay, "What I would tell our Founding Fathers" while 11th grader Jackson Pierce read his Voice of Democracy winning theme, "Is our constitution still relevant?"
"Today we come together to celebrate the courage of fellow veterans, past and present," said Col. John G. Norris, Joint Multinational Readiness Center commander, in an address to the gathered crowd. "Let us not forget our families … they too carry the burden of sacrifice."
Norris said that since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, almost three million men and women have joined the U.S. armed forces.
"While this speaks of the service, the courage, the character and commitment of those who have stepped forward … it represents still less than one percent of our population. Not since the periods between World War I and World War II have so few shouldered a burden on behalf of so many," he said.
Norris said when he was a young, enlisted Marine there was a quotation painted on the wall of his dining facility that appropriately describes the difference in the understanding of service in today's society: "For the Soldier, the price of freedom has a flavor that the protected will never know."
"As one of many veterans standing here today, I share a deep appreciation for the strength, the support and the service of the Hohenfels Military Community; the families, German and Army civilian employees, contractors and multinational partners that make up the JMRC and the Hohenfels garrison are what make this organization very, very special," said Norris.