The war fought in Europe from July 28, 1914, to Nov. 11, 1918, was known as the Great War, now World War I. A total of 9 million combatants and 6 million civilians died during the Great War. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the Allies (France, Italy, United Kingdom and USA) and the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungry) ceased fighting. The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, “The war to end all wars.”
President Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11, 1919, the first Armistice Day, observed with parades and public meeting. Congress passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, which officially recognized the end of World War I and requested the flag be displayed from public buildings. In 1938, Congress made Nov. 11 a holiday honoring veterans from the Great War.
In June 1954, Public Law 380 changed Nov. 11 to Veterans Day because the millions of veterans who served in World War II and the Korean conflict. In 1968, President Johnson signed Public Law 90-363 to make Washington’s birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day Monday holidays, a three-day weekend. Veterans’ groups began lobbying to change Veterans Day back to Nov. 11. President Ford signed Public Law 94-97 which returned Veterans Day to Nov. 11 beginning in 1978.
Established in 1990, Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery is a memorial and peaceful final resting place for 10,000 veterans and family members in Fernley, Nevada. Allow me to introduce you to the first Nevadan Killed In Action to be buried in Fernley, 2nd Lt. James Jeffrey Cathey, Sr., United States Marine Corps.
Lt. Cathey was born on Oct. 8, 1980, and graduated from Reno High School and the University of Colorado. He had been in Iraq for a month when he and a corporal were killed by an IED on Aug. 21, 2005. His 23-year-old widow, Katherine, was five months pregnant. On Aug. 23, 2005, her sonogram revealed Katherine was carrying their son.
You may remember several of the photographs taken by award winning photographer Todd Heisler as Lt. Cathey’s remains returned to Reno. Todd’s photo of six Marines in the cargo area of a commercial jet unloading Lt. Cathey’s flag draped casket. Each window of the commercial jet had a passenger’s face watching the six Marines off-load his casket. On Aug. 28, 2005, the night before his burial, Todd took Katherine’s picture as she slept beside Jim’s casket, her last night with him. The Marines had set up an air mattress with sheets for her. In Todd’s picture a Marine was standing next to Lt. Cathey’s casket. Katherine was on the air mattress next to her husband’s casket.
Now you know more of the history of Veterans Day and one story from NNVMC. As you treasure this day in your heart, thank at least one veteran. Or buy several flowers and visit the veterans’ section at Lone Mountain Cemetery in Carson City. Lay a flower in front of several veterans’ grave markers. Each Saturday, an uncle of Lt. James J. Cathey, Sr. visits the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery and places a flower next to his nephew’s grave marker. “All gave some, some gave all.”
James Jeffrey Cathey, Jr. was born Dec. 22, 2005. He will be nine years old next month.
Ken Beaton of Carson City contributes periodically to the Nevada Appeal.