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I wanted to know what I could do as a civilian on a day like Veterans Day and so I took a drive with Ret. MSgt Ken Roberts who has seen combat on 5 continents defending threats from ever coming home. The podcast above is a conversation that we had and I hope his words move you.
In case it does – Here is the link your looking for:
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The Backstory: WWI -Armistice Day
On a very typical cool and damp autumn day nearly 37 miles north of Paris, France, I field of generals and diplomats meet aboard the rail carriage of French General Ferdinand Foch. It is nearly dawn on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, and after 1564 days of fighting, the Brittish, German, and French Militaries have finally decided that in the 11th hour of this day they would lay their weapons down.
This Armistice Day will be celebrated by not just those countries but by all of those nations that laid down the lives of their citizens to stop tyranny. The Germans would surrender 2,500 heavy guns, 2,500 field guns, 25,000 machine guns, 1,700 airplanes and all submarines they possessed They were also asked to give up several warships and disarm all of the ones that they were allowed to keep.
With the Treaty of Versailles to follow 6 months later, Germany would take responsibility for their actions and agree to repay $35 billion in retributions to which the last payment was finally made in 2010.
Just after the close of the Korean War in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. This was more inclusive of all of those that served both domestically and abroad. By 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed by Congress, which moved the celebration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. The law went into effect in 1971, but in 1975, as the Vietnam War came to a close, President Gerald Ford returned Veterans Day to November 11, due to the important historical significance of the date.
Where originally it was a celebration of peace, Veterans Day is now a moment to commemorate veterans of all wars. Traditionally, every Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, Arlington National Cemetery holds an annual memorial service. The cemetery is home to the graves of over 400,000 people, most of whom served in the military, but don’t confuse the two days. This is not a day of national mourning, nor a day of celebration of peace. It is now a date of reflection for those that choose to protect the United States from foes both on our soil and in meeting the fight where it begins in the hope that it never comes home.
The military men and women who serve and protect the U.S. come from all walks of life; they are parents, children, grandparents, friends, neighbors and coworkers, and are an important part of their communities. Here are some facts about the veteran population of the United States:
- 18.2 million living veterans served during at least one war as of 2018.
- 9 percent of veterans are women.
- 7 million veterans served during the Vietnam War.
- 3 million veterans have served in support of the War on Terrorism.
- Of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II, about 496,777 were still alive as of 2018.
- Connecticut was home to the highest percentage of World War II veterans as of 2018 at 7.1 percent.
- 2 million veterans served during the Korean War.
- As of 2017, the top three states with the highest percentage of Veterans were Alaska, Maine, and Montana, respectively.
How Do Veterans Want You To Observe It?
For many civilians, this is a day where we remember to say “Thank you for your service”. For some veterans, they will be immensely grateful for the respect, for some they will be slightly embarrassed as they don’t feel they are due thanks for the profession they have chosen and appreciate not to be in the spotlight. The truth is that like all civilians, each service member is unique onto themselves. All three of my brothers served in theaters of war and each with a remarkably different experience. Even within a single patrol unit that served together, different solders carry and reflect on their service in different ways.
That is not to take away from any one of them, but to say that just like the civilian population, those that have lived the military life are each also different in how they experience and remember it. Many will spend the day with pride for their service as they should, where others will mourn losses of close friends. Some will reach out to old buddies they have lost touch with throughout the year and others will spend the day alone.
There are many ways that we as citizens can each participate in the observance of Veterans Day and here are a few of my favorites
- If you’re an educator, discuss the opportunities that there are in serving in the military. Bring in veterans to talk about their time and why they joined.
- If you are an employer, celebrate the contributions to your team that veterans make and how their military service supports the growth of your company. If you don’t employ veterans today, make today the day you reach out on one of the many websites that employ veterans to see if the next hire at your place could be a veteran.
- Don’t be afraid to thank strangers wearing a military cap for their service, but don’t be startled if their reply is not the one you thought you were going to get. many veterans share that they don’t know how to react when people thank them.
- Spend more time with those in your family and friends that served and make sure they have an ear to share their story with. I like to use a pretty unassuming question like “tell me about why you joined the military?”, or “what was the fondest time from your time in the service?”. Too many of our veterans still carry a heavy weight that they don’t want to open up about so avoid prying questions about their service and focus on the positives. They will open up about the rest when they are ready.
- Wright, Call, or Post your representative about the need for improvements in Veteran’s Affairs. Freedom isn’t free, and the price is a debt we owe to our veterans and right now they are behind on payments. They need to provide the care that was promised when each soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine on the day they took their oath of service.
All that being said, I will spend the day thinking about the ones that I love that have served and the sacrifices that they, their spouses, and their parents have made to defend this great country. God Bless America!