Tomorrow is Veterans Day. For too many, it is seen as an opportunity to miss work or school, have a bbq and relax. For far more, Veterans Day and Memorial Day are nearly synonymous… and irrelevant.
But both holidays are different, with different meanings and significance.
Before we head into the day’s festivities, I believe it’s worth it to step back for a moment and know why you’re free to have the day off, to throw that bbq, and enjoy the freedom that allows your day of relaxation.
Memorial Day glorifies and honors those who died protecting (and earning (and then restoring)) our freedom. Originating in 1868, the holiday was originally called Decorations Day, because soldiers’ graves would be decorated with flowers and flags. And while officially, it is called Memorial Day, some do still refer to it as Decorations Day.
On Memorial Day, the Red Poppy is worn or displayed as a tribute to the dead. It is a symbol that arose from the poem, “Flanders Field.” If you’ve never taken the time to read it, I strongly suggest that you visit this link and read it.
It is on Memorial Day that we should all pause and say a prayer (if that’s your thing) or simply think of and remember those who have given their final measure of devotion to the Country.
Fortunately, far more people are celebrated on Veterans Day than on Memorial Day. While Memorial Day is for the fallen, Veterans Day is for the living as well.
Veterans Day celebrates all of those who make those luxuries possible.
Veterans Day has not always been as we know it now.
Originally a day to celebrate the end of “The War To End All Wars,” Armistice Day was originally observed at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1919. It was a year to the hour since the cease-fire agreement took effect and ended World War I.
In 1938, Armistice Day was established as a yearly legal holiday. As the Country looked towards another World War, people still celebrated the end of “The Great War.”
In 1954, after 16 years of on-again, off again battle, the decision was made to extend the honor of Armistice Day from one select group of U.S. veterans and include all veterans of the armed services. President Eisenhower signed into law what is now known as Veterans Day.
It was intended to be a day where people could gather together and celebrate our veterans – their sacrifice, patriotism, and willingness to serve.
So as we prepare for another year’s Veterans Day, take a moment to reflect on the veterans you know or have known. Thank them. Some may scoff and grumble a thank you in return, some may blink and smile; but maybe one or two will truly appreciate your gratitude.
Far too many of our veterans return from battle with scars we can never see, fighting fights with themselves we can never understand, bearing a burden we will never know.
So tomorrow remember why you have the day off and who earned it for you.