Veterans Day 2014

In the beginning:

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “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.

Later, Armistice Day officially became Veterans Day:

[O]n October 8th, [1954] President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first “Veterans Day Proclamation” which stated: “In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans’ organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible.”

I have a neighbor who lives with her husband a few doors down on the opposite side of the street. She’s in her 70s now, and her memory is not what it once was. She recently asked me how another of my neighbors was doing, but the man died almost ten years ago. She was at the funeral. They have one of those small porch flags which they rotate with various colorful banners as the seasons and holidays change. As I write this, I see that they have taken down the one with the decorative, embroidered turkey and have replaced it with the United States flag. Yesterday she was out front chatting with one of her girlfriends when I want out get something out of the truck. She stopped, waved, and yelled up the street, “Happy Veterans Day! Thank you!”

She does this every year. She may be a bit confused on the precise date, but she remembers. She and her husband lost their only son in Vietnam.

I know more veterans in my family and my circle of friends than I could possibly thank in this space. I’d wager that most of you do also. We have our photos and mementos of those who are no longer with us. (On the shelf here in my office I have my dad’s Zippo lighter that he carried with him in France and Germany during World War 2.) Thankfully, plenty of them are still here, often leading ordinary lives like anyone else, probably surrounded by at least some folks who don’t even realize that they served.

While we should never forget about their service, today might be a particularly apt time to stop and say thank you. I doubt you’ll embarrass them all that much.