Veterans Day: Remembering that Number

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24324_506457942804_1714822_nBy: SFC Josh Marquis (pictured)

As November approaches, we often look at the calendar in anticipation of that one day when most health food addicts suffer a significant emotional event.  But nestled quietly between the 10th and the 12th, annotated with neatly printed text, is another significant event known as “Veterans Day.”

“How’d that get there?” we often ask ourselves.

The celebration of November 11th dates back nearly 100 years.  President Wilson took to the national stage on November 11, 1919 to recognize the first anniversary of the armistice between Germany and the Allied nations.  While honoring the brave men who perished during World War I, he referred to this day as “Armistice Day.”  It was celebrated as such for another 35 years before being renamed “Veterans Day” in 1954 after a World War II veteran named Raymond Weeks fought to expand the holiday.  His hopes were to not only honor those veterans who gave their lives for this great nation during World War I, but to celebrate all veterans.  On May 26, 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill expanding the holiday which would later become known as “Veterans Day” during a Congressional amendment on June 1, 1954.

While “Memorial Day” recognizes those who made the ultimate sacrifice, “Veterans Day” recognizes all Veterans, both past and present, while still honoring all veterans who have passed away, regardless of cause.  But just how many people are we honoring?  According the U.S. Census Bureau (2011), even though 1.47 million veterans are serving on active duty at any given time, there are 21.5 million veterans in the United States today.  That’s just 7% of the population.  Dating back to June 14, 1775, some estimates show an astonishing 100 million people have served in the American military.

Wherever you may be on Monday, November 11, think of that number.  Whether you’re spending the day celebrating with a classic American barbeque, spending the day out with family, earning your next paycheck, or relaxing at home, remember that number.  Without that number, the United States may still be paying levies to the Queen; Europe may be in the hands of the Nazis; the United States may be dependent on the Japanese; Communism may rule the world; Saddam may be in control of the world’s oil; and the United States may have never gotten justice for September 11, 2001.

This Veterans Day, if you know a veteran, hug them, praise them, look them in the eye and shake their hand.  Whatever you do, thank them.  Remember that number because, without it, the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness may no longer be self-evident.

Read more Veteran stories in the Military Service Employment Journal at msej.info

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