“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” —Maya Angelou
On November 11th, banks close, the mail is a day late, and schools might grant a three day weekend. But for the 23.2 million men and women in the United States who have served in the armed forces of our great nation, it’s not a free holiday. It’s the opportunity to be honored for their sacrifices and willingness to serve for the common good, along with their undaunted patriotism and love of country on the day that has come to be known as Veterans Day.
Veterans Day, which has been celebrated in our country in various forms for almost a hundred years, differs substantially from Memorial Day in that it pays homage to all living veterans, whether they served in war or peacetime. By contrast, Memorial Day is specifically intended to honor those who died directly in the line of service or as a result of injuries incurred from battle. Known originally as “Armistice Day”, President Woodrow Wilson first brought the day into our collective consciousness on November 11th, 1919, the one year anniversary of the cessation of the First World War. In his address to the nation, he expressed what he felt the day represented to Americans. In his 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 nations.”
Seven years later, Congress immortalized that remembrance by passing a resolution to continue to honor the day, which was originally intended to focus specifically on WWI. In their resolution which states the “recurring anniversary of [November 11, 1918] should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations” we are able to catch an inkling of how the Veterans Day would begin to evolve. Before that vision could come to fruition, however, the world was again plunged into darkness shortly thereafter and men and women across the country gave everything they could to defend our liberties, ensuring the victory of democracy and freedom around the world. It was after the global atrocities had ended and we began to understand what had been lost that Raymond Weeks, a veteran of WWII and known by Ronald Reagan as the “Father of Veterans Day”, wished to expand the day of remembrance to include those who had served in the most recent World War. President Eisenhower, himself a WWII veteran, supported the change and in 1954, Congress approved the bill that would mark the final transformation from Armistice Day to our current Veterans Day.
Today, Veterans Day coincides with global celebrations in Britain, France, Canada and Australia. In Europe, Britain and the Commonwealth countries it is common to observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. every November 11.
Here in the United States, an official wreath-laying ceremony is held each Veterans Day at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, while many communities choose to host parades and local activities to pay homage to the sacrifices that the American men and women made while in service. The Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C. perhaps best reflects the sentiments of the day, with the inscription: “Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.”
And while the holiday is intended to pay homage to Veterans and their service, it also promotes secondary conversations of how to best honor their sacrifice, while simultaneously ensuring that there are resources in place to support the needs of Veterans at all stages of life. Take, for example, the VA health care system. The VA health care system had 54 hospitals in 1930. Since that time, it has expanded to include 171 medical centers as well as more than 350 outpatient, community, and outreach clinics, 126 nursing home care units, and 35 live-in care facilities for injured or disabled vets. One such facility is the Minneapolis Veterans Home, one of five in the Minnesota Veterans Home system.
On a recent trip there, the PreciouStatus executive team had the privilege of making the acquaintance of gentleman who was a 20+ year veteran of the U.S.S. Bowfin, a.k.a “The Pearl Avenger”. When asked about his experiences in service, he said “I was 16 when I went into the service. I had to lie to get in because I was too young, but it was the best thing I have done and I would do it all over again.” At 84 years old, he has become a custodian of our past, representing a unique perspective on our nation’s history, while being able to share firsthand accounts of some of the most iconic events that shaped where our country is today.
According to the History Channel, Mr. Bowfin is in good company. 9.2 million veterans are over the age of 65 (to put that in perspective, the youngest vet to be included in that statistic was born in 1951). Collectively, they watched as Kennedy was assassinated, served in Vietnam, and helped to put a man on the moon. By contrast, today, there are 1.9 million veterans under the age of 35, young men and women who came of age through a generation of Middle Eastern conflict and global terrorism on an unprecedented level. Both represent important parts of who we are as a country, a heritage that we must continue to work to protect. George Washington stated “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.” His insights ring even more true today, at a time when wars are often considered to be unpopular and servicemen are questioned for their commitment to patriotism.
This excerpt, from President Obama’s last Presidential Proclamation on Veteran’s Day is a cogent reminder of how critically important the military is to our country and the collective debt that we owe to their care after they return home:
The United States military is the strongest, most capable fighting force the world has ever known. The brave men and women of our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard demonstrate a resolute spirit and unmatched selflessness, and their service reminds us there are few things more American than giving of ourselves to make a difference in the lives of others. On Veterans Day, we reflect on the immeasurable burdens borne by so few in the name of so many, and we rededicate ourselves to supporting those who have worn America’s uniform and the families who stand alongside them.
At PreciouStatus, we have tremendous respect for the sacrifices made by our military personnel and their families. It’s why we continue to collaborate with commanders, administrators, and physicians of various divisions and branches of our armed forces to explore how our technology can continue to improve the lives of our American heroes and their families. It’s also why we have a continuing care program, which allows veterans to communicate with their providers as they heal. On the reverse side, our application brings peace of mind and comfort to the loved ones of veterans, regardless of where they are. A firsthand account of that experience comes from Rita, a family member of a Veteran who uses the PreciouStatus app, “We get wonderful PreciouStatus updates and photos from [my father’s] military clinicians. We have incredible peace of mind when we can’t see him in person frequently.”
Our military personnel and their families have always held a very real place in our hearts. When we realized that the HIPAA compliance that we had insisted on for use in the healthcare industry also meant that it could be used in military hospitals, we realized that we were in a unique position to give back to the heroes who have worked so hard to protect our freedoms.
Which is why this Veterans Day, we urge you to take the time to give back in more tangible ways than thought for the patriots who fight for this country alone. John F. Kennedy said it best with the reminder that “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” If we are to truly remain the land of the free, it is tantamount that we work to make the home of the brave as welcoming and supportive as we can for veterans in all stages of their lives.
Wondering how you can express gratitude this Veterans Day? Here are a few of our favorite ways to get involved:
- Start with “Thank You”. As our CEO and Founder Julie says, “When you see a current military professional AND their families OR a veteran…Just say ‘Thank You!’ They are giving it all to ensure freedoms we take for granted each and every day!”
- Show Up. To a real event, that is, not a picnic in the park where you take advantage of your free day off. For a list of local events, check out https://mn.gov/mdva/news/events/. After all, “We can’t all be heroes; someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.”
- Write. Programs like Operation Gratitude, A Million Thanks, and Operation We Are Here make it incredibly easy to find a service member or veteran to write. There are also great resources that help to break down what to say (and what not to say!) to help brighten a veterans day.
- Donate. Find suggestions on which charities could really use the extra funds and what the money goes towards, here.
- Visit a VA Hospital. Before you go, figure out the policies at your nearest VA hospital (you can find a list of Minnesota facilities here) for interacting with patients or volunteering, and spend the day with a veteran. Many VA facilities will have events on Veterans Day or a special lunch you can help prepare. Even if you spend the entire time behind the scenes, helping at a facility is still a great way to give back.
- Ask a Veteran About Their Service. Chances are good that you already know someone who has served, but maybe you don’t know much about their experiences. Sit down and talk to them about what it was like! Military.com provides this list of suggestions to get you started: What did you do in the military? How long did you serve? What was your favorite moment in all your time in the service? Did anyone else in your family serve? Why did you choose to go into the service branch you did? Do not ask if they’ve killed anyone and should your veteran be a combat vet who is either unwilling to share or plainly states what they went through, be supportive without being intrusive. Sometimes you don’t have to say anything, just listen and give them your full attention.
- Learn To Fly a Flag. Did you know that the U.S. Flag code is comprised of 10 different laws? You may know not to let the flag touch the ground, but did you know that if a new state is added to the union, the new star can’t appear until the next 4th of July? Read up on the full code, here.
Whatever your beliefs in the current political climate, regardless of your opinions on how just our wars are or if you plan to make good on that promise to move to Canada altogether, remember that it takes courage to risk life and limb for your country. By enlisting, our military personnel serve for us. They serve for the freedom of speech, which allows us to criticize our government’s choices. They serve for a democracy, which allows for a government created of the people, by the people for the people. But most of all, they serve for liberty and justice for all. Honor those heroes this Veterans Day.
“Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” —Winston Churchill