Celebrate Veterans Day and honor those who have served in the Armed Forces at the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum in downtown St. Louis during two events slated for early November.

Originally called Armistice Day, the holiday first commemorated the end of World War I. 

“Signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the armistice brought an end to the hostilities of World War I,” says Mark Sundlov, Soldiers Memorial division director. “In 1938, Congress made the day an official holiday to remember those who served in World War I. In 1954, following both World War II and the Korean War, Congress renamed the day to Veterans Day to expand the recognition of veterans.”

On Saturday, Nov. 9, at 10:30 a.m., Soldiers Memorial will host the 36th Annual St. Louis Regional Veterans Day Observance. 

“We are particularly excited that Rodney ‘Rocky’ Sickmann will serve as the keynote speaker for the observance this year,” Sundlov says.

Sickmann graduated from Washington High School in 1976 and immediately entered the U.S. Marine Corps. In 1979, just 28 days into his tour of duty at American Embassy in Tehran, Iran, Sickmann became a player in one of the most terrifying events in U.S. history.

On Nov. 4, 1979, after months of turmoil marked by the return of the exiled Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Embassy was overrun by militants and its employees taken captive. Sgt. Rocky Sickmann, then just 22, was one of 65 Americans taken hostage. Sickmann remained a hostage for 444 days before being released on Jan. 20, 1981, following 14 months of diplomacy by President Jimmy Carter. Three months later, Sickmann was honorably discharged after six years in the U.S. Marine Corps and received several accolades during his service including the Prisoner of War Medal, The Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Award of Valor and Good Conduct Medal.

Following the observance, the annual Veterans Day Parade will kick off at noon. The route will pass in front of Soldiers Memorial and down Market Street toward Union Station.

On Monday, Nov. 11, at 10:55 a.m., the American Legion’s 11th/12th District will host its annual Veterans Day ceremony at Soldiers Memorial. This event is open to the public and is timed to celebrate the anniversary of the end of World War I. 

“Poignantly, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, this special event includes the laying of a wreath to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War I,” Sundlov says. “Since its first days, Soldiers Memorial has been a location that not only remembers those who have made the supreme sacrifice but also honors all veterans and active service members.”

Over the years, some confusion has crept into the public’s understanding of the differences between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, he explains.

“While both are linked to service, Memorial Day specifically recognizes those individuals who gave their lives in service while Veterans Day recognizes all veterans both living and deceased,” Sundlov says. “In much the same way that today’s Veterans Day recognizes our living service members, Soldiers Memorial is dedicated to supporting today’s veterans and living up to its original commitment to be an active, functional and meaningful location to help carry on the business of veterans. 

“As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Attending Veterans Day events is a perfect way to show our veterans that you sincerely care and that you are truly thankful for their service.”

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