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Veterans Day 2010 in the Southland

Gregg Reese | 11/10/2010, 5 p.m.

Veterans Day traces its roots back to World War I, originally known as the Great War, because the carnage and scope (it involved all of the world's major powers and a total number of combatants topping 70 million troops) of it surpassed any previous armed struggle experienced in the history of civilization. The official end of hostilities was marked by the Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919 at the palace of the same name on the outskirts of Paris. But the actual bloodbath ended with an armistice, or truce signed earlier on the 11th hour of the 11th day of November, 1918, the day on which we now celebrate the holiday.

In the aftermath of the war, whole empires were toppled, entire world maps were redrawn, and millions of participants lost their lives outright, or were left permanently maimed. This motivated the president and Congress to set aside a special "Armistice Day," to honor its returning warriors and to demonstrate the country's commitment to the pursuit of international peace. This observance was, in turn, decreed a legal holiday by Congressional proclamation in 1926, then officially changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day via legislation enacted by President and ex-General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954. Over the years, the celebration was moved to observance on the fourth Sunday in October until 1978, then back to November 11 by a law signed by President and former Navy Lieutenant Commander Gerald R. Ford. In other areas of the globe, it is celebrated as well, alternatively as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day.

Venues for camaraderie
Among the dozens of service organizations initiated to assist America's service men and women, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars figure prominently, with three million members (in 14,000 Legion Posts worldwide), and 1.5 million in VFW posts across the United States, respectively.

The American Legion traces its lineage back to the aftermath of World War I as well, with the granting of a Congressional charter in 1919. Originally conceived to help reintegrate returning troops back into civilian life, after experiencing the horrors of warfare in Europe, the Legion has been credited with assisting in the creation of the Boy Scouts, Boys Nation--which annually brings scores of youngsters to Washington, D.C. for training in government, various youth athletic programs including the American Legion World Series. The organization also helped create the Department of Veterans Affairs, the G.I. Bill, and is credited for its continuous efforts to advance the welfare of service men and women via the expansion of disability, education, and medical benefits.

Here locally, the American Legion is well represented with several thriving chapters, among them "Jackie Robinson" Post #252 on Slauson Avenue west of Crenshaw Boulevard, named after the Pasadena native, ex-Army tank commander, and Hall of Famer who broke the major league baseball color line. The Ladies' Auxiliary will begin serving a free dinner Thursday afternoon between 3 and 4 p.m.

During the week, there is Monday night football, ballroom dance classes on Tuesday and Thursday, and opportunities for socializing on weekends which may be explored by calling (323) 298-0308.