Have you ever thought about what Veterans Day is all about? On Wednesday we will pause as a nation and as a community to honor all who have served in the United States Armed Forces. In the spring we have Memorial Day in memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, but this Wednesday is not only for them but all the men and women who have ever been in the service. It is an official federal holiday with most government offices and financial institution closed.
Veterans Day is one of the few Federal Holidays that falls on the same date each year. The others being New Year’s Day, July 4, and Christmas. There was a time between 1971 and 1978 that Veterans Day fell on the fourth Monday of October. But that proved to be very unpopular. In 1975 President Gerald Ford signed the proclamation that moved it back its original date of Nov. 11.
Each year on Nov. 11 there is a time to honor our local veterans on the Square right across from the Historical Court House. Each year the crowd seems to grow as we take the day to thank those who through their service have kept us a free and strong nation.
My late Father in Law was born on Nov. 11 in the year of 1915. When the first parade came on his fourth birthday, the family legend is he thought it was for him. Truly all the celebrations are in honor of all who gave valuable years of their lives to serve our nation.
Nov. 11 was chosen because on that date in 1918 at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month an armistice was signed by Germany and the Allies that ended the First World War. Of course this was then known as the “War to end all wars.” But sadly this as not true and following the Second World War and Korean Conflict it was changed to all who had served our nation with the new name “Veterans Day.” This action was done by Congress and President Eisenhower in 1954,
The way the name of the day is written is important. Many times in ads or the press you will see the possessive form of the word, either “Veteran’s” or “Veterans”. But the official name is the attributive form “Veterans”. You ask why this is important. It is not just a day for Veterans but day for all of us to express our appreciation to them.
It is a great time to thank all the veterans you know for their service. If you know a veteran who is getting older or not able to get around as much, why not sent a note or email to thank them in a very personal way?
One of the traditions for Veterans Day is a laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Putting flowers or a flag at the grave of a Veteran is also a good idea. Many of your neighbors will fly a flag from their home on the Eleventh to show their appreciation.
While saying “thank you for your service” is very important, the care we give our Veterans is even more important. The services, particularly the medical support, has not been in the past few years what it should be. This is truly a non-partisan issue as under both parties we have allow the care not to be what it should. Let Veterans Day be a reminder to all to work to correct this ASAP.
Another group we should honor on this date are the families of those who served. Often great sacrifice was made at home in support of those who served. Countless hours of worry happen when there is a deployment. I can remember when our son went just out of high school to serve in what was then known as the cold war. I can also remember the terror when he was deployed during Desert Storm and to serve in Iraq. There is a ripple effect that touches many lives when someone is in service.
It is estimated there are over 21 million veterans alive in our country today. All but 5 million of those served during times when the services were involved in active conflict. To all these men and women we will ever be in their debt for the years they gave to our nation. I can write these words because these Veterans protect our freedom of press. I can worship the way I choose because they served to protect our freedom of religion.
In between the writing of these words and you reading them, many of us voted in an election. Again we could do this because they served. Remember you are blessed with these freedoms because of those who were will to serve. Thank you for your service.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.