Weekly Feature

2017-11-08 / Editorials

Veterans Day: Honoring those with past service

A few years ago we wrote about the meaning of Memorial Day, which many observers seem to have confused with Veterans Day or Armed Forces Day. At that time we noted that Memorial Day is dedicated to those who didn’t come home from serving in the nation’s military.

This Saturday, Nov. 11, the observance is about the veterans and the recognition they deserve for having served in the nation’s armed forces, sometimes returning with physical or emotional injuries, but at the very least having given up several years of their lives for our country.

We must now reverse our Memorial Day argument: This Saturday’s observance is not to remember those who died in service; it also does not honor those still serving. Those now on active duty in the U.S. or overseas are celebrated on the lesser known Armed Forces Day, which is the third Saturday in May. Veterans Day had its origins at the end of World War I. Because the armistice, which ended the conflict, occurred on Nov. 11, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson would one year later proclaim Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.

The observance would remain known as Armistice Day until 1954, when, following World War II and the Korean War, President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation that made Nov. 11 a date to honor American veterans of all wars. The name was changed to Veterans Day, a fitting honor for the millions who fought in these wars.

It seems ironic then that after the country designated a day specifically to honor the nations’ veterans that they were treated so poorly during and after their service in Vietnam. Opposition to the war turned some protestors against those who fought it, forgetting that many of them had no choice.

Of course, the country has now come full circle. Most people are quick to distinguish between their dislike of the nation’s foreign policies and their opinions of the people serving in the resulting conflicts. Actually, we know some veterans who are tired of hearing “Thank you for your service.”

While people mean well, that phrase has become so ubiquitous that it is similar to “Have a nice day.” We doubt if there is much thought behind it.

When we honor our veterans this week, maybe we should instead ask them about their service — perhaps find out where and when they served and what they experienced. We should also remember that the day is for veterans — those who lived to return and later ended their service.

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