As a kid, I remember celebrating Veterans Day…
I was born and raised in a small town. There would be parades, speeches and going to the local cemetery where small flags were put on each grave. It was a solemn time because my family and friends had many veterans among them.
As I grow older, I have an increasing appreciation for what Veterans Day is all about — especially now that I have six grandchildren ranging in age from 6 to 19 years old. The beauty of this particular holiday is that it offers both parents and grandparents a wonderful opportunity to reflect and discuss critical aspects of our nation’s evolving history.
I should quickly point out that people sometimes confuse the meanings of Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is observed the last Monday in May as a remembrance of those who died in military service in the United States.
Veterans Day is observed on Nov. 11 in honor of those who served in the military – U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard –in times of war or peace. My guess is you may know, or have known, several veterans.
For example, both of my grandfathers served in the U.S. Army during World War I, my father served in the U.S. Army during World War II and my cousin served in the Navy during the same war. Most recently my son-in-law served in the Coast Guard during peace time. Bottom line – many of our friends and loved ones have given much to keep us safe and free.
I’m getting ahead of myself, so go back in history with me nearly a century ago. The year was 1918. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month, the world rejoiced and celebrated. After four years of bitter war, an armistice was signed. “The war to end all wars,” World War I, was over.
The fighting ceased and an armistice or temporary cessation of hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect. What is now commonly known is that World War I, also known as “The Great War”, officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier. For that reason, November 11, 1918 is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.” But there is more to the story.
The history of Veterans Day in the United States had a few other wrinkles before all was finally settled. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as Armistice Day to remind Americans of the tragedies of war. It was a day to remember the sacrifices men and women made during World War I in order to ensure a lasting peace.
On that first Armistice Day, soldiers who survived the war marched in parades through their home towns. Elected Officials and veteran officers gave speeches and held ceremonies of thanks for the peace they had won.
In 1938, Congress voted Armistice Day a federal holiday – twenty years after the war ended. However, Americans soon realized that World War I would not be the last one. World War II began the following year and nations large and small participated in yet another bloody struggle. For a while after the Second World War, Nov. 11 continued to be observed as Armistice.
In the early 1950s, however, Americans began calling the holiday Veterans Day in gratitude to both the World War I and II veterans. In 1971, President Nixon declared it a federal holiday to be observed on the second Monday in November.
While any discussion of Veterans Day is obviously rooted deep in our nation’s history, we would be remiss to not recognize those veterans living and killed in action while serving in the Korean Conflict, Vietnam War, War in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now, it’s Veterans Day 2017…
Today, in the United States, Veterans Day commemorates the courage and patriotism of all the men and women who have served in the United States military. How will you honor our Veterans on Veterans Day?
Allow me to offer some suggestions:
- Write thank-you notes to deliver to veterans in VA hospital or nursing homes. Visit with them, thank them for their service and listen as they share their stories.
- Display the American Flag at half-staff for Veterans Day.
- Attend a Veterans Day service in your community. Click here to learn about some in Lynnwood and nearby.
- Talk to your children or grandchildren about the history of Veterans Day.
- Serve a veteran – rake leaves, mow his or her lawn, deliver a meal or dessert to them.
- Offer up a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving for those veterans who have served you and your country.
- Be supportive of veteran service organizations.
Loren Simmonds has been a resident of Lynnwood for 35 years. He served on the Lynnwood City Council for 16 years and is currently a member of the Lynnwood Civil Service Commission. Loren works as a consultant, writer, speaker and trainer. He is also a member of the Lynnwood Parks and Recreation Foundation.