Some people may be a bit confused about what is observed or celebrated on this important Veterans Day. For some it is a free day from work to hang out and cook on the grill, or make a trip the beach, lake or kick-start their holiday shopping. For others, it holds a much more important and deeper meaning. Regardless of which category you find yourself this Veteran’s day, it is a day to celebrate and honor ALL veterans who have served in the US Armed Forces.
Some of the confusion as to the actual focal point of this observance is because Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day are both set aside to honor the military. To make it easy to separate the two; Memorial Day is a time to remember those that sacrificed all in duty and service to their country. While Veteran’s Day is a time set aside to reflect and honor those members who have served or who continue to provide a blanket of freedom and safety to the citizens of the United States.
Veterans Day: Brief Background
In the summer of 1918 the war machine of World War I is in full swing as the Germans retreat from advancing American forces. Sensing an end to the war an armistice [peace talks] is called and accepted both by the Germans and Americans. This pause in the war takes place on the 11th month, 11th day at the 11th hour of 1918. As a result of these negotiations, the Versailles Treaty is inked and subsequently ends the carnage of the War.
I use the word carnage not to add shock value. I want to share a few facts with you about what some of our service members endured. During WW I, there were 65 million total forces mobilized from both sides of the fighting. By war’s end, the total number of casualties (killed, prisoner of war, wounded or missing) reached a staggering 37.5 million. Please don’t just read over those statistics, I implore you to absorb those astronomical numbers and let them resonate with you as to what they actually mean. I want you to try to put a face to each one of those 65 million souls. Each number represented a person; a father, brother, dad, sister, daughter, or mother to a family sitting at home worried sick and not knowing if their loved one would be the lucky one to make it out of the fierce and hellish fire fights of trench warfare alive. Think of it this way: there was a 58% chance that if you served during this war you were going to fall prey to death, imprisonment, being wounded or missing in action. Given these numbers and doing the math, this equates to 24,000 souls each day, every day during the war falling into one of these categories.
Shortly after the June 28, 1919 signing of the Versailles Treaty, American President Wilson announced that Armistice Day would be observed in the United State at the same time as the cease fire took place nearly a year earlier.
During his proclamation Wilson stated,
To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.
The name Armistice Day changed to Veteran’s Day in 1954 and from that time until the early 1970’s the date of this observance changed as well. After the early 1970’s it was changed back to the original November 11th (11/11) and has remained unchanged since this time.
Service Before Self
The current United States’ population is about 317 million people. The US Veteran population is approximately 22 million, or slightly below 14% of all Americans. To paint it in another color that means 1 in 5 Americans at some point in their lifetime have answered the call to duty and stood the watch over our safety, security and freedoms.
Given these numbers it is plain to see that many men and women have unselfishly raised their right hand and stated,
I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will 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; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
This is where the meaning of Veteran’s Day hits home for me. If one were to read between the lines of this oath it would be clear that the person making this promise will defend the freedoms and safety of this great nation. Even if that means being placed in harm’s way or dying in the defense of our way of life. That promise is never made lightly and means as much to me today as it did when I first made it on March 30th 1987. I serve this country as an active duty member of the US Armed Forces and proudly salute all 22 million Veterans that know what service before self means. Thank you for your sacrifices.
On your way to support local music, beach, river, lake, mall or huddled around a grill sucking on a cold beer, I hope that you take a few seconds to thank a US Armed Forces Veteran for their unselfish contribution and un-repayable sacrifices they’ve given to ensure all our freedoms.
Be safe and see you in the pit My Friends!