By Paul Lonardo
Veterans Day gives Americans the opportunity to celebrate the bravery and sacrifice of all U.S. veterans. However, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, many Americans confuse this holiday with Memorial Day, which honors service members who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle. Deceased veterans are also remembered on Veterans Day, but this day is set aside to thank and honor living veterans who served honorably in the military – in wartime or peacetime.
Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, was originally set as a U.S. legal holiday to commemorate the end of World War I, which officially took place on November 11, 1918. In legislation that was passed in 1938, November 11 was “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’” As such, this new legal holiday honored World War I veterans.
In 1954, after having been through a second World War, as well as the Korean War, the 83rd U.S. Congress, at the urging of the veterans’ service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word ‘Armistice” and inserting the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, November 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
Locally, there are many veterans, past and present, and all should be honored. This Veterans Day, a special rededication ceremony will be held for a World War I soldier from Georgiaville. This past July, the Balfour-Cole Post 64 in Smithfield held a rededication ceremony for Pvt. Alexander M. Balfour, one of two local WWI veterans for whom the post was named. The event took place on the one hundred-year anniversary that Balfour was declared missing in action and dead. On Saturday, November 10, Private Fred C. Cole is to be similarly honored. Jeanne Verity, herself a Gulf War veteran, and the media liaison for the post, will be presiding over the ceremony, which will take place at noon in the parking lot next to the VFW Post on Farnum Pike. Cole’s actual memorial is located at an intersection nearby, at Farnum and Homestead.
Cole, who served with the U.S. Army’s 310 Infantry Regiment, 78th Division, was killed in action on November 1, 1918. He died just ten days before the end of the Great War, which claimed an estimated nine to thirteen million lives. Germany formally surrendered on November 11, 1918, frequently referred to by veterans as ‘the eleventh month, the eleventh day, the eleventh hour’ to mark the true time of the momentous signing.
Seven months later, on June 28, 1919, Germany and the Allied Nations (which included Britain, France, Italy and Russia) signed a peace settlement, known as the Treaty of Versailles.
For the Georgiaville soldier lost a century ago this month, he is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne, France. While Private Fred Cole’s remains did not make it home, he has not been forgotten by the town that he called home.
There are lots of veterans’ activities during the month of November, according to Verity, including an annual turkey dinner hosted by the Elks Lodge on Farnum Pike. Anyone can attend, but veterans are always invited.
“It is really an amazing afternoon, and I look forward to it each year,” Verity says. “It is very moving, as the 88th Army Band plays the anthem from each branch of the military, and those members stand during the playing. It brings tears to many an eye as people stand so proudly while the songs are played.”
“This year the post also planned to participate in the welcoming parade of military vehicles that leaves from Chepachet and goes to Ponaganset High School on November 1st, as part of the Moving Vietnam Wall,” Verity says. “That’s the reason why Cole’s ceremony is not being held on the precise anniversary of his death.”
The supreme sacrifices made by our veterans is something that should be remembered more than just one day a year, and in keeping with this sentiment, in 2001 the United States Senate passed Resolution 143 designated the week of November 11 through November 17, 2001, as ‘National Veterans Awareness Week.’
To find out about the Fred Cole rededication ceremony, or about American Legion Post 64 in Smithfield, contact http://www.post64.com/ or call Jeanne at 401-524-0735