McHENRY – The 11th day of the 11th month means more to scores of country’s veterans than just a kitschy date on the calendar.
In the 11th hour on this day in 1918, World War I ended, and it has since been a day to recognize the country’s 21.5 million veterans.
For three generations of Marines in the Streicher/Laudick family of McHenry, Veterans Day carries a lot of weight.
In 1960, patriarch John Streicher joined the Marine Corps and served during the Cuban missile crisis. His son-in-law Dan Laudick Sr. joined in 1985 and served through 2005, after seeing the impact the military had on his older brother.
So when Dan Laudick Jr. opted for the military after graduating McHenry High School East Campus in May, his decision came as a surprise to no one.
“I kind of knew,” said his mother, Rebecca Laudick. “I have three boys, so I figured at least one of them would follow.”
Said Laudick Jr.: “My main reason [for joining the Marine Corps] was to carry on the military tradition my family had. ... It was the Marine Corps or nothing, because of my grandfather and father.”
Laudick Jr. spoke to the Northwest Herald in a phone interview from Monterey, Calif., where he is at the Defense Language Institute. Like his father, the younger Laudick Jr. is in the intelligence field.
The men are connected not only by blood, but now also by another sense of brotherhood.
“We know what each other went through,” the elder Laudick said.
Once known as Armistice Day, the observance became a national holiday in 1938 as a way to honor those who served in all American wars. In 1954, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower changed the name to Veterans Day.
President Woodrow Wilson, on the first anniversary of the end of World War I, and the first Armistice Day, said: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”
The day honors military veterans with parades and speeches across the nation, and a number of events today in McHenry County.
“I appreciate what everybody has done as far as serving and giving up,” Streicher said. “We live in a country that should appreciate these people more than they do. People take for granted that there’s always somebody there to protect them.”
And although it’s been nearly 100 years since the country began honoring its veterans, those who have served, like the Laudicks and Streicher, say we’ve come a long way.
When Streicher and the elder Laudick returned from service, there was no fanfare, no parades, no motorcycle motorcades, no welcome-home parties. It was pretty unceremonious, they both said.
“There wasn’t the hoopla when people were coming home,” Streicher said. “When people came back from Vietnam, people looked down at them. It was the lowest form of appreciation. There were [people] who really thought it was almost a sin to be in the military. Fortunately, it’s gotten better.”
When Laudick Jr. came home on leave after finishing basic and combat training, Streicher paraded his grandson around town.
“People, strangers, said, ‘Nice to meet you,’ and ‘Thank you for your service,’ ” Streicher said. “That’s something that never would have happened 34 years ago.”
But today is not just a day to remember our veterans, Laudick Sr. said, but to remember the family who serve alongside military men and women. His wife had “the hardest job in the military,” he said, a role she took with pride.
“I feel honored to be a daughter, a wife and mother of a Marine,” Rebecca Laudick said.