Veteran’s Day: How It Started, What It’s About, and Who to Thank

He sat in an electric wheelchair in the frozen food section of the grocery store, examining the chilly selection stored behind rows of transparent doors. His Korean War Veteran hat sat atop his head lightly, looking as though a slight breeze might jar it loose, and his hands trembled as he absently smoothed the wrinkles from his jacket. I decided to simply have a brief interaction, and paused in my shopping to thank him for his service. He may have been a stranger, but he was a veteran, and that meant he was not a stranger at all but rather a member of a community worthy of respect. My brief pause became a long stretch standing in that frozen food aisle while he talked about the war because, as it turned out, he needed someone to talk to. I was happy to do it, and it was also not the first time such an interaction had played out. Thanking those who have served is something not only I myself do but something I’ve raised my daughter to do as well. Listening to stories is something I will always do, and I’ve heard some amazing tales along the way. Have you thanked a vet today?

It’s Veteran’s Day; a day with a history all too many have forgotten. Its roots can be traced back nearly a century to 1918 and the First World War. At that time it was known as the Great War; the Great War began on June 28, 1914, and ended on November 11, 1918. On that 11th day of the 11th month of the year, its 11th hour, the Allied nations and Germany agreed to an armistice. For twenty years to follow, it would be celebrated as Armistice Day; in 1938 November 11th was declared a federal holiday and, after World War II and the Korean War, it became known as Veteran’s Day.  The change of names was made official by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 1, 1954. As a nation with several major wars behind it, we needed a specific day to honor our veterans and November 11th was already significant for related reasons, making it the perfect choice.

Some will point out that the actual Treaty of Versailles, which was the official end of the war, was not signed until June 28, 1919, but it is November 11th that has always stood out since that was the day the actual cessation of open hostilities took place. Throughout our history there have been other significant events to take place on Veteran’s Day: in 1921, the unidentified soldier was buried at Arlington National Cemetery- an act which was, in fact, participated in by other countries as well. As we laid our unknown soldier to rest, other unknowns were buried at Westminster Abbey in London and at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Veterans DayInterestingly, there was a brief stretch in the 1970s where the date Veteran’s Day was to be recognized on was changed. This actually began in 1968 when Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which was meant to give federal employees a three-day weekend. This would also encourage tourism, they hoped, and thanks to the amendment to the day’s date they added it would give our nation not three but four national holidays celebrated on Mondays: George Washington’s birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and the newly rescheduled Veteran’s Day. Congress decided Veteran’s Day would be changed from November 11th to the fourth Monday of each October. It was October 25, 1971, when the new law first went into effect, and to say confusion and frustration reigned would be an understatement. Since states are not required by law to celebrate federal holidays, many chose to continue honoring veterans on November 11th despite the change announced by Congress.

It wasn’t until 1975 that then-President Gerald Ford decided people had made it quite clear the patriotic and historical significance of November 11th was more important than having a quartet of Monday-centric federal holidays. After some thought, Ford signed yet another law; one returning the observation of Veteran’s Day to November 11th. The new law went into effect in 1978 and has been recognized ever since. Of course, when Veteran’s Day lands on a weekend, the federal government adjusts accordingly. Saturday observations mean the federal government takes the previous Friday off while Sundays mean Monday is taken off. Apparently a three-day weekend is a must for the federal government.

There is a common point of confusion when it comes to Veteran’s Day, and that’s Memorial Day. Memorial Day is meant for honoring our dead, those service members who either died in combat or who passed later from injuries incurred in combat. Veteran’s Day is a day for remembering all American service members, whether alive or dead, although the focus is on those who are here with us. And while there are some veterans who feel they are not worthy of thanks because they served in peacetime or never saw combat despite serving during wartime, well, they’re mistaken. All veterans deserve our thanks regardless of time or mode of service. Honorable service is honorable service no matter how it takes place.

Far too many Americans now see Veteran’s Day as a chance to take advantage of furniture and car sales or participate in one last barbecue before the really cold weather hits. Thanking a veteran for their service couldn’t possibly be farther from their minds as they toss back a few beers, grill a hot dog, and bask in the luxury of their sales-purchased stuff. Americans have become a rather materialistic lot, and the proof is in their method of celebrating holidays such as this. It’s time for a reality check.

VeteransThere has been a tremendous amount of sacrifice on the parts of our nation’s veterans. Some have sacrificed their lives while others have managed to survive but have sacrificed limbs, brain function, marriages, or the ability to function without some form of chemical assistance, whether prescribed or in a bottle. Some may feel guilt for not having had the opportunity to fight in battle because they either stayed stateside, served in peacetime, or simply never left the green zone during wartime. Even those who have not seen combat have sacrificed. They bulled their way through basic, spent significant time away from loved ones, and endured whatever crap storm came their way, rolling downhill from the brass. They used rocks for pillows, ate MREs in disturbingly copious amounts, and hoped they’d one day have the chance to do what they longed for: fight for the country they love. However a member of our nation’s military served, they served, and that service is what we thank them for, wherever it took place. Sacrifices are made in varying degrees, but all count for something. Never forget that.

Thomas Jefferson wrote “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” While it may appall some to see it this way, our nation’s soil is rich with the blood of sacrifice. Our founding fathers, our grandparents, our parents, our brothers, our sisters – sacrifices have been made not only here in the United States but overseas. While it is unspeakably tragic that those sacrifices be necessary, they are. We could not survive as the greatest power on earth without bloodshed, and we here within this nation’s borders could not sleep peacefully at night without men willing to give their lives to protect those borders.

I am honored to have a personal history rich with military service and the friendship of many service members. Through the years some of my most trusted, reliable friends have been and continue to be those who have served. In times of need it is to those friends I turn time and again, and of their loyalty I have no doubts.

That is not to say veterans are perfect, because they are human, and all humans have flaws. But they do have something not everyone can claim, and that is a brave heart, one willing to run towards the sound of gunfire rather than away from it. Would you?

FlagsIt’s Veteran’s Day, and it’s a time we should all thank the veterans we know for their service, whatever it may have been. However, the idea that we should only show our gratitude on one day is preposterous. Thankfulness for our military member’s service should be expressed throughout the year, and pride should be demonstrated boldly on a daily basis. Flags should fly, respect should be shown, and asses should be kicked when disrespect is displayed. Yes, it is a day when our nation should, as a whole, show its respect during a moment of silence at 11 am on that 11th day of the 11th month of the year, and it is certainly a day to be recognized and honored. But the idea that those observations need only be made one day out of 365 is so ludicrous as to be borderline insane, and I, for one, would love to see Americans rise up and return to the patriotism and pride of the past.

On November 11th, let the veterans in your life know what their service means to you. Let them know you appreciate their sacrifices, and let them know you’re there if they ever need to talk, or need a shoulder to lean on for any reason whatsoever. We lose approximately two dozen veterans a day to suicide, and you never know when you might reduce those numbers by one if you’d just show you care. Take a moment; it costs you nothing, but it could mean everything. Make Veteran’s Day a daily event, starting now. Make it so. You are an American, and only you have the power.

A note from the author: Happy Veteran’s Day to the veterans in my life. While I won’t call you each out by your full names I’ll happily list first names: Brian (there are more than one of you), Yancey, Jeremy, Richard, Max, Brad, Steve, Casey, Ron, Bobby – there are others, and you are certainly not forgotten. Those lost are not forgotten, either, and will always be held closely in our hearts. Thank you all for your outstanding service and sacrifices.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Katherine Ainsworth

Katherine is a military and political journalist with a reputation for hard-hitting, no-holds-barred articles. Her career as a writer has immersed her in the military lifestyle and given her unique insights into the various branches of service. She is a firearms aficionado and has years of experience as a K9 SAR handler, and has volunteered with multiple support-our-troops charities for more than a decade. Katherine is passionate about military issues and feels supporting service members should be the top priority for all Americans. Her areas of expertise include the military, politics, history, firearms and canine issues.
Katherine Ainsworth

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