Veteran Stories

A day to honor veterans: How Did Armistice Day Become Veterans Day in US?

emporia veterans day

Americans celebrate Veterans Day every year on Nov. 11 to honor those who have served in the armed forces and fought to protect our way of life. Commemorative events, parades and, of course, some sweet shopping deals are all around the country.

The Armistice Day holiday, which originally marked the end of World War I, was broadened in the 1950s to honor all veterans. And without city of Emporia, Kansas, there would be no Veterans Day.

There is historical significance behind why we celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11. The Allied nations and Germany signed an armistice, or a temporary halting of hostilities during World War I, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month on Nov. 11, 1918. A year later, King George V of England proclaimed that date Armistice Day, to be marked with two minutes of silence at 11 a.m., the hour the agreement had gone into effect. In the mean time, President Woodrow Wilson declared Nov. 11, 1919 the first Armistice Day in the U.S., and the name was changed to Veterans Day on June 1, 1954 to honor veterans of all wars.

The Veterans Day holiday – will be 68 years old in Emporia and 67 years old nationally in 2021 – began through the efforts of an Emporia shoe repairman, Alvin J. (Al) King.

A Brief History

In 1953, Alvin J. King of Emporia, Kan., proposed changing the name of the holiday to Veterans Day, to recognize veterans from all wars and conflicts. According to a 2003 congressional resolution recognizing his efforts, the holiday was first celebrated in that small city, about 60 miles southwest of Topeka, the same year. The resolution noted that while Mr. King was not a veteran himself, his stepson John Cooper, whom he had raised, was killed in combat during World War II.

King began his campaign to change an existing national holiday – Armistice Day – to Veterans Day. He gained the cooperation of the community’s American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AmVets. The community raised money to send Mr. King and his wife, Gertrude, to Washington to meet with officials and push them to change the name of the federal holiday. They received crucial support from Representative Edward H. Rees, also of Emporia.

Rees agreed to take King’s idea to Washington, D.C., where it passed the House and Senate. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill establishing Veterans Day as a national holiday. The nation held its first Veterans Day on Nov. 11, 1954.

The First Event was a Local Ceremony

The small city of Emporia in Kansas , however, had organized its first celebration, called “All Veterans Day,” in 1953.

After King’s proposal, ninety percent of Emporia storeowners had decided to close their businesses for the day. The Emporia Board of Education followed suit for schools. As a result, most Emporians were free to take part in or watch many of the events.

The Emporia Gazette and Emporia Times newspapers reported a full slate of activities that began with a parade at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 11, 1953. At 11 a.m., civil-defense sirens, church bells and power-plant whistles marked the formal beginning of the event; the timing acknowledged the signing of the armistice that ended World War I at 11 a.m. of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918.

The American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps stood at Sixth Avenue and Commercial Street to play “Taps” after the whistles and bells, and the Kansas City AmVets Drum and Bugle Corps stood nearby to sound the echo.

Hot dogs, beans and coffee were served free in the basement of the Civic Auditorium. A wheelchair basketball game followed, featuring the Rolling Pioneers of Kansas City against a town team that included names familiar still to long-time Emporians – Malcom Smith of the Lowther Junior High School faculty, Carl Haney, Jerry Waugh and Gene Ridenour of the Emporia High School staff; Leslie Hayes of The Emporia Gazette; Keith Caywood of Kansas State Teachers College faculty; and Tom McGahey of Olpe High School. The drive-in theater showed a free movie and a free dance closed the day’s events.

Then-Kansas Governor Edward F. Arn watched the parade from the reviewing stand and, according to a newspaper account, “exclaimed, ‘This is a wonderful thing. Every city of the nation should have this.’” By the next year, it was.

All Veterans Tribute

Emporia is proud to be the Official Founding City of Veterans Day! Each November a multi-day celebration known as the All Veterans Tribute occurs to remember and honor our military veterans. A parade, memorial service, veteran artist exhibit, roundtable discussions, tribute show, Freedom Fest run, ride, and disc golf events, and more are in the event list each year. (see event link)

Change of Mission: Army veteran advice for getting on with life after the military

army veteran transition

Kirk Windmueller is an Army veteran with over 22 years of service. He is a senior manager at Avantus Federal and a volunteer for Project Transition USA. The latter is a non-profit organization that teaches veterans how to use LinkedIn to network and find their next career. In this article he shares his insights on veteran transition.

After 21 years of service, I decided in 2017 to submit my paperwork to retire from the Army. So, with retirement orders in hand, I stumbled into the unknown. I was a Green Beret and a strategic planner at Joint Special Operations Command. Normally I’m a big fan of irony, but the fact that it was my job to plan things yet I had no plan for my own transition seemed like a form of professional malpractice. The clock was ticking with less than 12 months to my unemployment, and even though 200,000 veterans separate from the military every year, I felt like the first person to ever retire.

Transitioning from military service is a complicated process. Waiting until the last minute or treating it like a typical PCS move is not the way you want to approach one of your most important missions: getting on with the rest of your life. The consequences of blowing this off or wasting time and effort on the wrong things could lead to financial issues, loss of critical benefits, or the most widespread problem — taking a job that isn’t a good fit. This is why so many vets quit their first job in less than a year and find themselves right back where they started looking for employment again.

I’ve been retired over three years now and I am on my second career since becoming an army veteran. I’ve learned a few painful lessons along the way and I’ve worked with a non-profit called Project Transition USA to help other veterans and to pass on the things that I wish someone had told me. Here are a few of those lessons and focus areas for transition that require ample lead-time and planning.


Financial planning Make sure you have your finances in order. Try to live beneath your means and get out of as much debt as possible (particularly credit card and other high interest debt). Save some money (at least three months base pay) to get you by a few months after you separate in case your job hunt takes you longer than expected. Hold off on buying a new car or other big purchases until you have settled into your next career. (continue reading)

Vets success in life after service: Drew Semper

Canadian vets transition drew semper

Many of those vets who release from the Canadian Armed Forces worry that their military skills and experience won’t count for much when they start a new, post-service career. Certainly that was on the mind of Reserve Sergeant Drew Semper. But after releasing from the Royal Canadian Air Force as an avionics technician, he grew his skillset and is now an electrician’s apprentice in the private sector.

Drawing from his own experience, he has some advice for current members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) approaching release from service.

Ambition to serve

Drew Semper always knew he wanted to serve in the Air Force. Or nearly always.

From Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Drew joined the Air Cadets at the age of 12. In high school, he took a semester co-op program with the Lincoln and Welland Regiment of the primary reserves. This program not only gave him basic training, but also a number of high school credits.

In 1996, he transferred to the regular Royal Canadian Air Force, where he trained in avionics.

“Avionics covers all the electronics in an aircraft, from communication to radar, weapons guidance and everything else,” he explains.

Drew started his military career with 402 Squadron in Winnipeg, helping to maintain the Air Force’s CC/CT142 Dash 8. He was then posted to the 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron in Edmonton, which flew the CH146 Griffon helicopters. As part of this Squadron, Drew deployed to Bosnia in 2004.

From December 2008 to May 2009, Drew deployed to Afghanistan with the Griffon helicopters, and from June 2010 to March 2011, as a member of the crews that maintained and repaired Canadian CH147 Chinook helicopters. He describes his experience that year as “hot, smelly and mostly monotonous—except for the rocket attacks on the base.”

Even so, inside the base was far safer than outside. “There was one time we landed a Chinook outside the wire,” he recalls. “We landed in the middle of a ring of steel, a circle of LAVs [light armored vehicles].” (continue reading)

Six stories from local Canadian veterans who have deployed internationally in the past year

Canadian veterans

In the year that has passed since the last Remembrance Day, six soldiers from local Canadian veterans army units have deployed on international missions to Ukraine, Lebanon, and Latvia. They were asked a series of questions recently to get a sense of what they do on these missions and what they’ve learned, both about themselves, their mission, and the countries that they deployed to.

What should Canadians think about this Remembrance Day? 

  • Democracy does not come free. The fight against corruption, autocracy, and apathy continues today.
  • As Canadians even though we have a diverse history and broad spectrum of personal experiences most of us were born in a free and unoccupied country and cannot fathom a daily struggle for freedom and independence that is happening in other countries around the world even today and has happened in generations past.  I would encourage Canadians to really think deeply on what it means to be free and the sacrifices made by many people to keep it this way including time away from families, hardship and difficulty with daily tasks and the ultimate sacrifice when necessary. 
  • Canadians should always remember soldiers stand for Canadian values both domestically and abroad, and that men and woman have died defending our values. As well, soldiers who have come back home with both physical and mental injuries that changed their lives forever. Remember that they went on deployment to represent Canada.
  • The world is quite different than it was last year. With the pandemic and Canadians staying at home, it is easy for people to forget why we celebrate Remembrance Day.  Canadians should think of creative ways to show their remembrance to the Fallen. Remembrance Day is a part of Canadian identity. Preserving this identity is important and we can do so safely. Wear your poppy during your online conferences/Zoom meetings maybe!
  • Canadians should be thinking about those who gave their life for their country and those serving overseas now.
  • I feel grateful that Canada has a strong democratic society, that it is multicultural. Generally Canadian’s take some pride with having strong environmental values. Canada is open, free travel is normal and uninterrupted by the state. Freedom of speech and right to hold peaceful protest are normal. I can’t say 100% for sure that all of these things gains were given to us by our soldiers in conflicts.  I do recognize, though, that without their commitment and sacrifice we would be living in very different society.

(Continue reading)

Click to read Canadian veterans news

Unplanned loss, unexpected redemption

veteran gains

A veteran story of loss and a successful recovery after support from a non-profit organization.

When Lafe Cotton left Michigan to join the Marine Corps in 2008, as a family they knew he would lose more than half of his earnings as a steel worker. Still, at 23 years old, he felt that the experience he would accumulate as a combat engineer would provide him the knowledge needed to achieve his professional goal of becoming a general contractor when he got out. What he didn’t know was what else he’d lose along the way. Or how long and difficult the journey ahead would be in attempting to recover it all.

Meritoriously promoted twice in his first 15 months of service, Cotton seemed pointed toward a promising enlistment. But six weeks into his first deployment to Afghanistan in 2010, Cotton’s Camp Lejeune-based battalion took part in the famed Battle of Marjah.

“My first deployment, we did 150 missions in seven months,” said Cotton. “There happened to be a 120-pound IED (improvised explosive device) about 100 yards from an Afghan National Army post. That’s where we got smoked.”

The blast left Cotton with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), which was immediately diagnosed by medical personnel in-country. After two weeks, his route clearance patrol team got hit by another IED just before their first mission back. It wasn’t the last.

“I got blown up three times—knocked completely unconscious,” Cotton explained. “The first one is what got me, though.”

Problems at home

“The big one,” as Afghanistan War veteran calls it, severely affected his short-term memory and brought on a sensitivity to light that necessitates wearing sunglasses “pretty much everywhere.” He also began having severe migraines and uncontrollable vomiting that sometimes persists for days. Add in post-traumatic stress disorder from witnessing the deaths of friends and children overseas, and Cotton’s injuries began taking a toll when he returned home. To cope, he turned to the bottle—drinking a fifth of liquor and a case of beer each night. Additionally, he was taking double the amount of his prescribed anti-anxiety medication. (continue reading)

Finding the missing link after service among fellow veterans


Meleanie St-Jean, now among veterans, pursued her dreams of a successful military career. In many ways, she has also been successful in post-service life as a mother and an independent business owner. However, this Army and Navy veteran felt something was missing. Reconnecting with military veterans allowed Mel to pursue new dreams.

Born and raised in Granby, Quebec, Mel enlisted in the military in 1991 at the age of 17. After a year of training in British Columbia, he was posted to Halifax at HMCS Nipigon. Later she trained as an electrician in Rimouski, Quebec. While serving in Newfoundland in 1994, she gave birth to her first child, Maxim, and married in 1995. Two years later, she gave birth to her second child, Alexander. At this occasion, she decided to stay home with her two of her boys. Mel was released in 1998.

With an ambitious spirit, Mel completed a two-year dental assistant program. He returned to CAF in 2002, this time as a paramedic in the army. His next stop was Shilo, Manitoba. She says it was the most rewarding period of her career because she worked at a primary medical center that evaluated and increased her knowledge and skills to a remarkable level.

However, things at home were difficult after one of her sons was diagnosed with medical issues. As a result, she and her family decided to return to Quebec where she joined the 5e Régiment d’artillerie légère du Canada (5 RALC) in Valcartier.

In 2005—during a 13-km training march where she lugged a fifty-six pound ruck on her back—Mel suffered a back injury requiring treatment. She was medically-released in 2008, with no plans of returning.

Adjusting to Retirement

Faced with the challenges related to her back injury, Mel searched for natural and herbal remedies. Her passion turned into her own business and soon she launched “Peau de Fleurs,” specializing in natural products and herbal medicine. She ran the business for five years and then closed its doors and redirected her efforts to support her sons during their challenging teenage years.

in 2010, (continue reading)

What do Canadian Veterans need?

Canadian Veterans

Canadian veterans are people who have served in the CAF (Canadian Armed Forces) or the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police). They are national heroes who make all kinds of sacrifices for Canada. They dedicate their lives, energy and time to the safety and security of Canadians.

However, veterans in Canada do not serve forever. After a certain period of service, they have to retire or leave their duties. They have to take off their precious uniforms and become a civilian citizen.

The transition of veterans from military or police duty to civilian roles has challenges. Veterans need to be prepared for this big change in their lives and external support may be very helpful during this shift.

Veterans serve Canadian people. Canadians have the responsibility to assist veterans after their retirement or leave. This is both a government and social duty for all citizens.  

Government organizations such as Veteran Affairs Canada (VAC) and many veteran nonprofit organizations offer veteran welfare and support services for Canadian Veterans. There are also several companies that hire veterans.

The national media channel CBC addresses homelessness, exposure to chemicals, post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health as the four main challenges of Canadian Veterans. This is sad and unacceptable. It is also evitable by simple measures.

We propose 4R as the framework of the solution set to make life easier for veterans. As illustrated in the figure the 4R stands for Respect, Rehabilitation, Resources, Reinforcement

Recognition: They deserve our recognition and respect. We have to show them they are not been forgotten even after they take off their uniforms.

Rehabilitation: Receiving support during the transition is necessary. We can not and shall not expect Canadian veterans to switch from a military or police role to civilian life without a glitch.

Resources: They will need resources to start and build their new civilian life. This includes financial resources, transition tools, official services, and most importantly community support.  

Reinforcement: They have the potential, capacity, and passion to continue to add value to their communities even after their retirement or leave. They just need our support.

Veterans are valuable members of Canadian communities. They may be invisible, but they are not vain. They can play key roles in society as they did when they are on active duty.

By: Omer Livvarcin, PhD

The Lives Of A Disabled Veteran’s Family Are Changed After Receiving Assistance


When Sarah Nutt contacted DAV (Disabled American Veterans) last May, she hoped her husband, Air Force veteran Gary, would qualify for much-needed additional compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. DAV is a nonprofit organization that helps more than one million veterans receive life-changing benefits each year.

In the years after Gary left his job due to illness, the financial situation had become so bleak that Sarah regularly cut her hair to cut costs. She rarely had money for extra food or gas. And medical and dental insurance was a luxury they couldn’t afford. “There was no money for anything other than the bare necessities,” Sarah said. “That’s why we were reaching out so desperately.”

But she didn’t know that DAV helped the family earn much more than the $ 150 per month they had hoped, significantly increasing Gary’s VA rating and even linking his daughter Sadie to educational benefits for her eligible dependents. .

Years ago Gary had the opportunity to travel to Germany, Spain and the Philippines to see the world as an aircraft electrical and environmental systems mechanic. But it was his service in the Persian Gulf War that ignited a medical mystery.

After spending a little over six months at King Abdulaziz Air Force Base in Saudi Arabia, Gary began experiencing excruciating headaches while serving at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas. “I bent over to open up my locker on base, and after standing up, I had a splitting headache,” said Gary, a lifetime member of DAV episode 7 in North Little Rock, Arkansas, “the worst I’ve ever experienced in my life,” said the doctors. it was a sinus infection, but the medications they offered were providing no relief.

Difficult Times in Transition

“They gave me some pills that didn’t work, so I went back and they gave me more pills that didn’t work,” Gary added. “Nothing really helped.” Moments of intense suffering continued after Gary left the Air Force, prompting doctors to temporarily remove part of his skull in hopes of ending the pain. Soon after, he started having seizures. Over the years, Gary’s symptoms got worse.

The headaches continued, but other concerns arose: slow speech and a sharp, gradual decrease in disabled veteran ‘s reaction time. As more and more assignments dragged on, the air conditioning repair company Gary worked for viewed him as a workplace hazard. “They had laid me off because I got to the point where I was really slow,” said Gary. “I got there at 5 every day, I worked as hard as I could, but they said I was more of a liability than an asset.”

(continue reading)

A centenarian WW II veteran in Virginia

Veteran soldier over 100 years old

Veteran (retired) Lt. Col. Louis Frazier Martin’s front lawn was packed with well-wishers to help him celebrate the centenarian’s 104 birthday.

On July 3, Martin’s surprise party kicked off with a car caravan assembly spearheaded by the University of Maryland Eastern Shore National Alumni Association. After that, the procession paraded past Martin’s Roosevelt Avenue residence near Virginia State University in Chesterfield County.

Sheila Martin Brown, proud being Martin’s daughter, shared some words about her father. “I have been inspired by his example of service to the community,” said Brown who resides with her dad. “He’s a wonderfully strong family man. He’s just always been a believer.” In addition, Brown stated that her dad has raised more money from individuals locally than she did while serving as a councilmember in Atlanta.

Moreover, “This is a special, special occasion,” said friend Starrie Jordan of Ettrick. “He’s been a model citizen for all of us in this community to follow. If I keep doing what he’s doing, maybe I can make it to 104.”

According to Jordan, Martin walks every morning. “He has a lot of determination,” added Jordan. “I hope I inherited whatever Dad is made out of,” said Brown.

“He has meant so much to our community here as you can see by the turnout.” said neighbor and friend Anna Bradley who invited The Progress-Index to attend Martin’s celebration. “There are numerous groups here to honor him.”

The event was attended by his loving daughter, family, friends, Westminster Presbyterian Church (Petersburg) members, neighbors, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity members, University of Maryland Eastern Shore (formerly Princess Anne College) Alumni, and others.

Betty Berry who has known Martin since 1968 expressed how Martin and his late wife Mariah were like family and always good to her. (continue reading)

Click to read more Centenarian WW II Veteran news.

A Veteran Whose Life was Saved in Korea by a MoH Recipient Samuel S. Coursen

While fighting on Hill 174 in Korea, Lt. Coursen saw one of his men, now a veteran, wounded

US Congressional Medals of Honor(MoH) are shiny and blue. They come in a narrow black box. So, when Sam Coursen was handed one by General Omar Bradley, he really didn’t know what was inside. You would have to excuse Sam. He was only fourteen months old. You see, the medal, the nation’s highest award for heroism, was given in honor of his father, Lt. Samuel Streit Coursen, Sr., US Army. If you went to Dublin High School in the mid 1960s, you knew Little Sam. None of you here were lucky enough to have known Big Sam. So, I will tell you his story, the story of an intrepid American hero. (continue reading)

A Veteran in Korea Saved by a Hero

And here is a nice story about a veteran of war in Korea by Todd DePastino of Veteran Breakfast Club.

“Yesterday, I spent the best afternoon imaginable at The Residence in Bethel Park retirement community, where I met a wonderful 90-year-old man named Chuck Nice. I told him how apt his last name was. He said to me, “I don’t even like to argue with people, and yet I had to kill them in Korea.” Chuck was one of the first soldiers shipped overseas to Pusan in July 1950 as a sergeant in Company C, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. On October 6, 1950, after lots of terrible combat, his depleted platoon received a new leader, Lt. Samuel S. Coursen. Six days later, Chuck’s platoon was down to a handful of men, including Coursen, when the 5th Cav attacked North Korean positions near the city of Kaesong as part of the massive UN offensive above the 38th Parallel.

While fighting on Hill 174 ‘n Korea, Lt. Coursen saw one of his men wounded. He also saw that the enemy was about to overrun their position. Then Lt. Coursen turned to his platoon. He told them to run as fast as they could away from the enemy. Then, Coursen fixed bayonet and charged, holding off the North Koreans long enough to allow Chuck and his comrades to escape. “(continue reading)