There are 22 million vets in America today, 7% of the US population. Veteran’s Day is America’s way of celebrating her living veterans. A veteran is an American who at one point or the other served in our armed forces during war or peace. Most are volunteers, some were draftees. They all took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same”.
Some have served and paid huge prices like losing limbs. Others have suffered lost marriages or long separation from loved ones. In many cases veterans have lost the innocence that those that don’t serve all too often retain. Veterans stationed overseas see America in a different light, some have a stronger desire for independence as they pursue creating their own businesses at a greater proportion than average Americans. All served understanding they may have to pay the ultimate price. Some have faced that reality and been forever changed. We owe much if not all of our way of life to those that have defended it. Today, Americans, as we tend to do after and during our wars make special efforts to thank their vets for their service. It was not always a special day on the calendar.
After WWI, there was an international effort to commemorate the end of “the war to end all wars”. At that point in human history WWI had cost the more lives than any preceding it at over four million. America lost over 100,000 in that war. WWI ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The following year President Wilson decreed 11 November as Armistice Day and it is still celebrated as such by many western nations. Congress created Armistice Day in 1938 to celebrate world peace and primarily honor the Veterans of WWI.
WWII called for 16 million Americans to don the uniforms of its armed forces, over 400,000 died wearing it. Over time Americans wanted to commemorate more than the horror and service that originated from WWI. This need became even more prominent after America put almost six million Americans in uniform to fight the Korean War. Congress decided in 1954 to rename “Armistice Day” to “Veteran’s Day” and change the focus to honor all veterans. Congress in 1967 decided to change a much older holiday called “Decoration Day” that commemorated the 600,000 Americans that died in our Civil War and the veterans that survived it into the current “Memorial Day”, a day dedicated to honor American dead in all our wars.
The convoluted history of Decoration, Armistice, Memorial and Veteran’s day along with a declining proportion of vets has caused much confusion over the years. In short, Memorial Day commemorates our war dead and Veteran’s Day commemorates our living veterans but as veterans we never forget those that didn’t come back and they occupy a special spot in the nation’s memory as well.
So on Veteran’s Day I offer an inadequate thank you to all my brothers and sisters who have worn the uniform of our great nation. To those that thank me and my comrades for our service I respond with a heartfelt and deep appreciation for their support. I lack the ”eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor” to communicate an honor beyond expression. “
Happy Veteran’s Day to all. Now let’s live our lives and create a nation worthy of that tradition of service and sacrifice and never forget those that didn’t come home…