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Guest Column: Two historic events to remember this Veterans Day

Veterans Day, Citrus Heights
Veterans Day 2014, Sylvan Cemetery. // Citrus Heights Sentinel

Guest column by Citrus Heights resident Michael Bullington–
One hundred years ago, two events took place that would shape the history of our world in an indelible way. One was a belated blessing; the other was an imminent evil.

Michael Bullington
Michael Bullington

On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany, to the relief of beleaguered English and French troops that had been battling the Kaiser’s forces since the summer of 1914. On the other side of the continent, in October 1917, the Bolsheviks toppled the Tsarist government in Russia, paving the way for a political philosophy that would suffocate countries around the world even until the present day.

America’s army had been smaller than either those of the Greeks or the Bulgarians, and we were therefore not viewed as an immediate threat to Germany’s imperial designs. Sensing a short window of time before we built up enough to take the field, the Germans hurried their troops from the East to the Western Front to expedite the capture of Paris, generally considered the key to winning the war.

America first appeared on the battlefield on May 28, 1918, more than a year after our declaration of war, at the Battle of Cantigny. Then, on June 6, followed the three-weeks-long battle of Belleau Wood, where the US Marines demonstrated their ferocity in combat, earning the nickname “devil dogs” from the duly impressed Germans. With the Germans still within 30 miles of Paris in July, the newly organized American Expeditionary Force forced them to retreat at the battle of Chateau Thierry.

August saw the beginning of the 100-day Meuse Argonne campaign, involving the combined French and American forces. During this engagement, Sgt. Alvin York was credited with killing 25 Germans and capturing 132 prisoners — with a decimated force of nine soldiers — earning the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The Allies pushed the Germans back for the final time, forcing them to agree to the historic armistice, or cease fire, at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Hence, the original name “Armistice Day.” The surrender was signed in a rail car at nearby Verdun, in the northeast corner of the country.

A year later, and five years to the day that the archduke of Austro-Hungary and his wife were shot dead by a Serbian separatist to begin the War, the Allies gathered at Versailles to issue the treaty officially ending the war.

Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day in the United States, by act of Congress in 1954, to honor all those that served our military throughout our country’s history. In England and the Commonwealth, it is celebrated as Remembrance Day. The symbol throughout the Commonwealth is a red poppy, so prominent on the fields of battle, that came to symbolize the blood-drenched fields from which they sprang.

Veterans Day is celebrated annually in Citrus Heights at the Sylvan Cemetery, this year on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 10:30 a.m. The VFW and American Legion Post #637 host the event. The ceremony begins with a procession featuring the Citrus Heights motor squad and color guard, local Boy Scout troop #228, and American Revolution and Civil War re-enactors.

Speaking under the gazebo will be Supervisor Sue Frost, Mayor Jeff Slowey, Chief of Police Ron Lawrence, and Paul Reyes, the American Legion commander. Music will be provided by the Folsom Harmony Express Singers. A resounding musket salute and a rendition of taps will conclude the event.

Michael Bullington is a history buff and 34-year resident of Citrus Heights. He represents Guardian Life Insurance Company of America and Park Avenue Securities, LLC. CA Ins Lic #0789337.

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