Honoring military service in this prairie town inspired the nation 50 years ago to rename Nov. 11 as Veterans Day. For years, Nov. 11 had been known as Armistice Day to mark the end of World War I. But in Emporia, a band of veterans, led by a local cobbler who lost a nephew at the Battle of the Bulge, wanted to honor all veterans. In 1953 Alvin King, a cobbler, suggested changing the holiday's name. The idea soon spread to Congress by a Kansas representative. And in 1954, Armistice Day was renamed nationwide as Veterans Day.
Each year, The Emporia Gazette publishes a special edition that lists hundreds of veterans, living and dead, from Emporia and surrounding Lyon County. This year's edition has 587 names. The issue also identifies every native son killed in combat going back to Civil War cavalry soldiers. At the municipal airport this weekend, there will be history displays, rides on a B-25 bomber and a re-creation of a burned-out French village for a battle re-enactment. People dressed as German troops will take a pasting from the American GI liberators, complete with mock artillery explosions and U.S. fighter planes.
Today, more than 100 men and women from this area are now in Iraq, many of them Army reservists on their second tour there.
By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY