Because they showed up when their nation called, or volunteered to put their lives on the line for it, the rest of us get to continue to enjoy picking our own leaders and other liberties.
Veterans Day, as it is known now although beginning as Armistice Day to mark only the end of World War I — also due to time and events somewhat humorously known as “the war to end all wars” — probably kind of slipped up on most of us. However, as usual, many will get to enjoy a three-day break from work because of it — Monday is the “observance day” because it fell on Sunday this year with national and state offices closed.
Many Americans confuse what is today Veterans Day and salutes all who protected the nation in times of peace as well as conflict with Memorial Day. That one occurs in May and not November and honors those who died defending the United States in its armed services. Veterans Day is about those still living who did the same thing but survived, although it is completely acceptable to remember and salute departed family members who were veterans.
Once every two years it falls only days after a federal general election. Every year it falls a few days after Halloween, which is not a national holiday but many treat as such. On Halloween, many Americans dress up in oddball costumes and the kiddies go out asking for sweet treats. Veterans Day is about those who put on variations of the same superhero/superheroine costume to protect the rest of us.
OTHER THAN a few scattered observances not much goes on for Veterans Day — certainly nothing like all those Halloween parties. However, it should be saluted annually as one of the most important of our holidays. If it weren’t for our veterans this wouldn’t be the same country. Actually, there quite possibly wouldn’t be a country whose citizens can celebrate all those other holidays, secular and religious including the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas.
This day deserves a lot better than most give it. So do the too-many veterans who “fall between the cracks” of the support/benefit system existing to keep them safe and well after their days in uniform are done. It is estimated that the largest portion of the “homeless” are former veterans. It took years of lobbying — another word for begging — to finally get a VA clinic located in Rome.
Somewhere along the line, the public sure got its priorities twisted. Putting on a fright wig and jumping out and shouting “Boo!” deserves more time than honoring those who dedicated years, and possibly being wounded physically or psychologically, to preserve our freedoms? And even voting, important a duty as it is for citizens, is not nearly as challenging as dodging enemy bullets.
THERE ARE, according to the latest Veterans Administration estimates, roughly 27 million veterans of this nation’s Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. That doesn’t count those now wearing the uniform. Basically, and also counting those that Memorial Day remembers and otherwise might still be living, about 10 percent of this nation’s current population has offered to put their lives on the line and spent some years making sure the other 90 percent of us can even have a Veterans Day ... and Thanksgiving ... and Christmas ... and free elections like the one just completed.
In other words, this is a darn important day and deserves to be treated as such by everyone, not just the veterans and their organizations that routinely take the lead in bringing the fact that freedom is not free to the nation’s attention.
Our military, and what it does 24/7/365-66, is no longer the universally understood and appreciated function that it once was. The recent elections, for example, featured a very noisy campaign that spent minimum time mentioning that at this very moment some of our sons and daughters are under enemy fire in foreign lands while others stand constant guard both at home and abroad.
PERHAPS SOME of this has to do with patriotic service to defend the common cause no longer being mandatory or even a possible interruption of everyday life. The draft ended after the Vietnam War; all our service members are now volunteers. Whatever it is that you owe your country is now easier to ignore than what you owe the bank.
What should not and must never be ignored, overlooked or slighted are the contributions that allow the frivolity of such as Halloween, the spirit of such as Christmas and the freedom of choice ingrained in our elections to continue.
At minimum, just pause for a moment. Doing so at 11 a.m. is usually suggested because the original Armistice Day marked the ceasefire in World War I that occurred at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
The contributions and sacri-fices of our veterans deserve as much as can be done for them afterwards. However, restoring this national holiday to the importance and visibility it deserves can start with something small — like everyone actually remembering it.
Set your cellphone alarm or desk clock to 11 a.m., put a reminder on your popup computer calendar, ask a neighbor or co-worker to be reminded and then, at that moment, just say, silently or out loud, “Thank you!” Or do it at 11:59:59 p.m. if you remember at the last moment.
IT’S A START.