Western District federal court honors veterans with informative ceremony



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

“How did World War I start? Why did it start?” asked former U.S. Attorney General for the Western District of Michigan Don Davis last Wednesday, almost 100 years to the day from the end of The War to End All Wars.

“Most of you probably have no idea, and in fact, even at the time, most people didn’t really understand it,” he continued.

Davis, nattily dressed in a military uniform, was addressing a crowd of about 75 people who had come to the second Veterans Day event held by the U.S. District Court staff, this time on the 100th anniversary of the original Armistice Day, as it was formerly called. (The actual first “Armistice Day” was in fact a year later, but the event it commemorates was in 1918.)
Davis served as U.S. Attorney from October of 2008 through July of 2012, retiring in 2013. He is also a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps.

A Michigan native and graduate of Western Michigan University before receiving his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School, Davis’s entire legal career was spent at the Western District of Michigan. He was the law clerk for Judge Noel Fox, then started at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1975, serving as Criminal Chief, First Assistant U.S. Attorney, Senior Litigation Counsel, and finally ending up as the U.S. Attorney. Since his retirement, Davis has been Of Counsel to Springstead, Bartish, Borgula and Lynch.

During his time with the federal government, Davis won two Directors Awards and an I.R.S. Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also president of the West Michigan chapter of the Federal Bar Association.
Imparting knowledge seems to come naturally to Davis. He was the chair of the Hillman Advocacy Court, and has taught many subjects at the Attorney General’s Advocacy Institute.

His presentation at the ceremony honoring veterans was full of information, starting with just what factors may have gone into causing World War I, which he noted was generally called The Great War at the time.

The act that set the war in motion was the assassination of the ruler of Austria-Hungary, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, by Serbians. The Serbs wanted to  have Bosnia and Herzegovina, incorporation of which into Austria-Hungary they regarded as imperialism.

As strong nationalist states had arisen, defense alliances had formed between countries, so as Austria-Hungary threatened war with Serbia over the assassination, Germany and Russia were drawn in on opposing sides From there many others joined the conflict, including the United States in 1917.

As Davis pointed out, to this day scholars are still trying to sort out all that was at play in World War I, but that does not negate the sacrifices of the soldiers who fought there.
Armistice Day was originally intended to honor only Great War veterans, but in 1954 when President Eisenhower signed the official change of the name from Armistice to Veterans Day, that signalled a change to expressing gratitude for the service of all veterans – as opposed to Memorial Day, which honors those who died while serving.

Davis also talked about another interesting circumstance. Because someone thought it would sound good to have the Armistice come into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, many thousands more lost their lives between when the armistice, or cessation of hostilities, was originally signed at 5:10 a.m., and the official announcement of it at 11:00.

Davis concluded his remarks by saying that, to him, the words “Thank you for your service” never rang hollow. “All of you gathered here are public servants, and all public servants earn and deserve our gratitude, so thank you for your service.”

Davis had been introduced by Thomas L. Dorwin, Clerk of the Court and a veteran as well, and preceded by a slide show with famous images. After Davis spoke, U.S. District Court for the Western District Robert Jonker took the podium. He said he often wondered if young people will carry on the tradition of thanking and honoring veterans, but he noted that a recent song by the up-and-coming young Michigan band The Accidentals referred to the very same flag-raising at Iwo Jima image just seen.

This was followed by the ceremonial cutting of a flag-themed cake.


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