When Corporal Alvin York and his small patrol found themselves behind enemy lines and pinned down by heavy rifle and machine-gun fire in war-torn France late in October 1918, they had few options. They could continue to suffer losses or fight their way out for their own survival.
With his unit taking heavy losses, York attacked firing rapidly, killing more than two dozen German soldiers. On the way back to the American lines, York and his small unit would go on to capture a German headquarters, taking on even more prisoners, bringing their total to 132 prisoners. York would be promoted to sergeant and would become the most decorated soldier in World War I.
After the war, a newspaper reporter asked York why he took such heroic risks and he said that he did what anyone would do in the same situation. “All the time I kept yelling at them to come down. I didn’t want to kill any more than I had to. But it was they or I. And I was giving them the best I had,” York said.
Fortunately for him and our country, he was able to come home in one piece. Many other “boys” weren’t so lucky. We honor York and all the men and women who’ve served in the United States Armed Forces tomorrow on Veteran’s Day for their service and contributions.
Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938.
I never served in the Armed Services, serving my community and my country in other ways, but I first learned about York in an elementary school history book and his story has stuck with me. He didn’t want to kill. He didn’t want to harm anyone else, but he answered the call when his country needed him the most.
There’s always lots going on this time of year, but it’s important to slow down even for a few minutes to pay tribute and remember all of our American veterans who have honorably served our country.
Let me close with this: Thank you for your service.