Five years ago, I wrote a post in recognition of Veteran’s Day, and the service personnel we as a nation honor on that day. In 2009, as will be the case next year, Veterans Day fell on Wednesday, and as such, the stars aligned perfectly for that week’s blog post. As our nation continues to grapple with conflict overseas, I decided to re-post the Veteran’s Day 2009 Edition of “Break It Down!”
It’s worth noting that while our fighting forces officially exited Iraq in December 2011, we still have military personnel there. Our forces are expected to leave Afghanistan (the other hotspot referenced in the initial post) by 2016. Also, for the record, we have a variety of personnel in Iran, Syria, Libya, Mali, Somalia, Pakistan, Philipines, and Yemen…lest you think the world is a peaceful place.
Enjoy, and if you didn’t take the opportunity to thank a veteran yesterday, reach out and do so today. Moreover, to all of you who are veterans, “Thank you for your service.”
Many of you know, or at least faintly recall that I frequently alter the blog format to integrate holiday traditions into the discussion. Often holidays are expanded by days away from work, long weekends, travel, and a host of leisure activities. In those cases, I prefer to scale back in recognition that aside from road map directions, GPS instructions, and the like, very little reading will be taking place.
As most Americans know, today is Veterans Day. At a time when the United States is engaged in twin wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and working fervently to ease tensions in a trio of other hot spots, including Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea, American service men and women are regularly front and center. The unfathomable horror visited upon soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas last week makes the value and vulnerability of one of our greatest resources resonate even more palpably. But what do we really know about this day that has been set aside to honor real American heroes and sheroes?
Well, first, Veterans Day is not Memorial Day, and vice-versa. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Day is intended largely to honor Living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served – not only those who died – have sacrificed and done their duty. Memorial Day honors those veterans who died in the service of their country, particularly those killed in combat, or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.
We also know that Veterans Day is a different kind of federal holiday. With the exception of Sundays, it falls on its actual date. In 1968, Congress approved the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This law, which took effect in 1971, amended the observance of certain federal holidays so that Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day would be observed on Mondays instead of fixed dates.
Congress passed the Act to increase the number of three-day holiday weekend for federal employees. After a loud and persistent outcry from veterans and veterans groups, who argued the historical significance of November 11th was compromised by the change, Veterans Day observance was returned to November 11th in 1978.
So how did this affinity for November 11th come about? As with many historical facts, it evolved. Veterans Day began as Armistice Day. The significance of Armistice Day is that it was the day of the signing of the Armistice that terminated World War I (WW I). In effect, WW I ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. That was when the Germans signed the document, ending hostilities that had begun in 1914. President Woodrow Wilson subsequently proclaimed the first Armistice Day, November 11, 1919.
WW I was deemed The Great War, and was thought by many, at the time, to be “The War That Ended All Wars.” It was, as the numeric designation suggests, the first World War. Of course, more wars would ensue. There was World War II (WW II), later the Korean Conflict, and then Vietnam.
In 1953, a store owner in Emporia, Kansas, Al King launched an idea to honor all veterans, not just those who served in WW I. The idea took root, sailed through Congress, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law May 26, 1954. Congress amended the Act November 8, 1954, changing Armistice to Veterans, and thus it has been ever since.
So today, especially around “The 11th Hour of This 11th Day of the 11th Month,” to augment a popular bumper sticker, “If you can read this, thank a teacher…and a veteran!
I’m done; holla back!
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