Ninety years ago our country celebrated Armistice Day, the end of World War I. Armistice Day officially became a holiday in the United States in 1926, and a national holiday 12 years later. On June 1, 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day, to honor all veterans.
I can only imagine how happy Uncle Ray must have been on Armistice Day, 90 years ago, and how anxious he was to come home to Kentucky.
Ray Underwood was my great-uncle, Maw Maw Wilson's youngest brother, and he and Uncle Wilbur, her other brother, fought in The Great War. Maw Maw had large portraits of both of them, and Pitty and I often sneaked up the steep stairs to gaze at the two handsome brothers dressed in their military uniforms. They stood at attention, hands on their guns, as if waiting for enemies to come creeping up the stairs.
Uncle Ray was a happy, jovial man with a great sense of humor. And although his sandy hair had turned to silver by the time I came along, each time he saw me he swooped me up in his arms and threw me high into the air. He was always joking and laughing, a mischievous look in his piercing blue eyes.
Today I search Uncle Ray's young face, imagining the horrors he must have gone through. (They didn't train troops then; they just gathered them up and sent them off to battle.) What a shock it must have been to him and all of those young men, many of whom had probably never even been in a fist fight.
My ancestors fought in all the major wars: the Revolutionary War (including seven brothers from one branch of the family), the Civil War (some for the north; others for the south), World War I, World War II, and a cousin, brother-in-law and ex-husband in Vietnam.
So I stop each Veterans Day and say a prayer for all of our brave young men and women who went off to war. Some came home and some didn't, but they are all heroes.
God bless you, dear veterans. And thank you.