Happy Veterans Day to the men and women who have served in the United States Military, whether in active duty, basic training, or in any capacity. Thank you for your service to our country. And thank you to those of you who will be veterans someday. It is because of all of you that the rest of us live in freedom and not worry about our lives on a day to day basis. I’m sure I speak for the majority of the population when I say that I am eternally grateful and hold you in highest regards.
Whether you have a relative, a friend, a spouse, a colleague, or anyone you know who has served in the military, please take the few minutes to send them a thank you today. It doesn’t have to be anything extraordinary, but a simple thank you for your service to our country will suffice. It will most likely mean a lot to that person. Forget your view on the war and the government; the soldiers are still protecting our rights as Americans.
Understanding the history of Veteran’s Day will perhaps enhance your appreciation of today. Originally Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day because it is acknowledged that World War I officially ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, 1918. From the Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Day History webpage:
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…”
In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a “Veterans Day Proclamation” to establish Armistice Day as a day to recognize all veterans. If you are wondering about the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Memorial Day is honoring those who died in battle or those who were wounded in battle and later died. Veterans Day honors the living veterans for their service.
Most of us, if we do not grow up around the military environment, do not have the opportunity to talk to veterans about their experiences or see soldiers and veterans anywhere aside from parades. That was the case for me anyway. Several family members of mine did serve in the military, but I never really talked to any of them about it until I took Professor Stanton’s American Folklore class at Mary Washington. In this class, we had the honor of participating in the Veterans History Project. Students took various routes to finding interviewees for the oral history project. I was fortunate to interview my uncle who served during the Vietnam War. Most people who I know who have served in the military during a war do not spend much time talking about it. The same is true with my relatives. For this reason, I was honored to talk to my uncle, as much for family history as for American history.
Many of the interviews from the Veterans History Project are available online, including the interview with my uncle, James H. Robb. The interview recording and transcription are available online. I am grateful to Professor Stanton for taking the time and energy to make sure that we did everything correctly in order to officially submit our interviews and transcripts to the Library of Congress. School children of all ages – elementary school to college – can participate in the project. It is an incredible and valuable initiative.
And most importantly, thank you, Uncle Jimmy, for your service during the Vietnam War.
Happy Veterans Day.