Veterans Day, a federal holiday in the United States, honors all military veterans. It is celebrated on November 11th, commemorating the most significant armistice of World War I, which was signed at 5AM November 11, 1918, and came into effect six hours later—“the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” President Woodrow Wilson made November 11, 1919, the first celebration of Armistice Day.
The first shot fired by an American in World War I was by Mike Chockie, later an employee at Gilman. From the Eagle Valley Enterprise of Oct. 9, 1942, p.5: “Mike Chockie, well known Red Cliff man, and for years an employee of the Empire Zinc company at Gilman, and the first American soldier to fire a shot in World War I, is again trying to get a shot at the Axis powers. Mike who left Red Cliff last week for Colorado Springs, applied for entrance in the Marines, and has been accepted for service. It was in 1917, when stationed at Guam as a corporal in the Marine Corps that he fired that first shot. He was on a naval vessel when war orders were issued to the Pacific fleet on this outpost. The crew of the boat spied a German launch speeding across the harbor. It took only two shots from Chockie to put the damaging shell where it did the most good. Mike Chockie is a brother of Joe Chockie of the Sweetwater Lake resort [and of Ed Chockie, who also worked for New Jersey Zinc at Gilman].”
The 1942 Armistice Day celebration in Eagle got somewhat out of hand. (Camp Hale at Pando was just being completed at this time.) From the Eagle Valley Enterprise of Nov. 13, 1942, p.1: “Some of the young men, in their teens, attending the dance in Eagle Wednesday evening, were pretty well spiflicated, and in going home had difficulty in keeping on the roadway with their car and on the corner of the Ida Dickerson property at Second and Wall Streets ran into a fire plug, breaking it off. In consequence the west end of town was flooded with water from the broken main and the entire town was without water for domestic purposes, and what was more serious, without fire protection for several hours.” In 1953, Alfred King of Emporia, Kansas, campaigned to turn Armistice Day into a day for all veterans. It was a popular idea and President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law on May 26, 1954. The act was amended by Congress on June 1, 1954, replacing “Armistice” with “Veterans” (in the attributive case, no apostrophe, rather than the possessive case, thank you).
With the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October, but, by 1978, popular opinion moved the celebration back to the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Beginning in 1978, as well, the Department of Veterans Affairs has released an official annual poster for Veterans Day. They can be seen at http://www1.va.gov/opa/vetsday/gallery.asp .
Taking the time to honor those who serve and have served in our nation’s armed forces is never more appropriate than during those times when we still ask our young men and women to fight overseas. So, here’s to them all, including my father, my uncles, my cousins, my father-in-law, my husband and so many dear friends.