Honoring Our Veterans: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

On November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m. the Germans signed an armistice, or cease-fire, agreement ending World War I. A year later, President Woodrow Wilson would proclaim November 11 as Armistice Day, a day to honor those who died in the service of their country during World War I. Congress made it a legal holiday in 1938.

After World War II, Congress changed the name of the day to Veteran’s Day so that all veterans from all wars could be honored. President Eisenhower, a decorated World War II veteran himself, set up the Veterans Day National Committee with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs serving as its chair.

Since World War II, Faulkner County has continued to send its soldiers off to defend this country. Brave men and women from this area have served their country in Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East, Afghanistan and anywhere else they were needed to protect our American way of life. Back at home, the families, friends and community prayed for their safety and for their quick return home.

One of the most vivid examples of this was during the 1991 Gulf War. The United States sent troops to the Persian Gulf to force Saddam Hussein of Iraq to remove himself from Kuwait. Back in Faulkner County, the flags and yellow ribbons were seen everywhere in support of our troops. A huge billboard was erected on Harkrider Street in Conway with the name of every soldier from the area on it.

My cousins, Jim Burnett and Steve Hankins, served in the Marines during the Gulf War. Jim spent seven months in the Middle East with the 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. A picture of him operating a tank in the Persian Gulf region appeared in the January 7, 1991 Newsweek magazine. Steve was in the vanguard of the troops moving into Kuwait after the tankers overran the Iraqi barriers. Both men came home to a hero’s welcome in April, 1991 and a community-wide fish fry was held to welcome the two back home.

In 2000, veterans from Pleasant Valley raised funds to place a veteran’s memorial on the grounds of the Pleasant Valley Cemetery. On the memorial are the names those from Pleasant Valley who have served in the armed forces in all wars. In the dedication program was a letter from Staff Sgt. Jim Burnett that was sent while he was stationed in the Persian Gulf. In the letter, he thanked the community for supporting the men and women who were serving their country:

“Every night when we weren’t training or fighting, there would be men huddled around a radio to hear news from home. We loved so much to hear about the support rallies. It gave us a great advantage over any other fighting man in the world. It meant so much to know we wouldn’t be forgotten and that the ones killed knew until their last breath they had 1,000 percent of America’s support and that you really cared about our great country.”

So as you go throughout your week of work and activities, take a moment to say thanks to that veteran who crosses your path. Despite the obstacles that our country faces, we are still the greatest country in the world! We owe a big thanks to those men and women who gave their all to protect, serve and defend!

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