Veterans Day is Monday. A few of us will have the day off from work to recognize the holiday. But beyond that, what does Veterans Day mean to you?
Originally created by President Woodrow Wilson as Armistice Day following World War I, the holiday was meant to recognize the ending of the war to end all wars that saw a cease-fire declared on the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1918. Millions died while they served their respective countries in that conflict.
In 1945, WWII veteran Raymond Weeks brought the idea of expanding Armistice Day to celebrate the service of all veterans, not just those who served during WWI. The first national observance of Veterans Day was held two years later.
Veterans Day often is confused with Memorial Day, which honors men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice while they served the United States during conflict. Veterans Day honors all veterans who have served in the military.
Many of today’s service men and women have spent — and continue to serve — most of their military careers in the two wars in the Middle East. Some have been in theater multiple times in the former war in Iraq and in the current conflict in Afghanistan.
Many more veterans have served in various other conflicts, including WWII, Korea and the Vietnam War. Others served with distinction in the Cold War as a ready force against the perceived threat of Communism and nuclear war.
Still more joined the armed forces as volunteers to serve without an active conflict in the event of action that would put them in harm’s way. Those people trained and maintained readiness as a deterrent to war without ever firing a shot at an enemy.
Veterans are people who put the love of their country before themselves and their families. In many ways, they honor the service and sacrifice of the servicepeople who were on watch before them as a way to pay them back for the liberties that we enjoy today.
Veterans don’t always agree with the policies or the conflicts for which they become the spearhead of the United States under the direction of political leaders. Whether they’re right or wrong, veterans are there to serve the orders of their leaders — at great risk to themselves.
Even a peacetime force is a hard job to manage. Time away from families, constant training, low pay, injuries and the inability to simply quit your job to take another one are traits most in the military endure. Whether you agree with government policies and what the military represents as a fighting force, we should all push our personal opinions aside, if for just one moment, to say thank you to a veteran.
Veterans are a true resource to our community, and their bravery to serve is admirable, even if it is in peacetime. They bring values, respect and a unique skill set to others’ lives because of their service.
Many veterans go on to become first responders, political leaders, health care providers or mentors of our youth. They focus on what selfless service, with honor and dignity, can do to make a community a better place.
Often, veterans rise above the general population to save and help others well after their active duty time has been completed.
Hug a veteran, and thank them for their service. They don’t need a lot, but recognition goes a long way.
Gig Harbor’s annual Veterans Day ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Skansie Brothers Park, 3207 Harborview Drive. Boy Scout Troop 282 and the Gig Harbor Elks Lodge 2560 will present the program.
In addition, the second annual “Thank You Veterans” will be held from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Monday at Chapel Hill Presbyterian church, 7700 Skansie Ave. The event is a fundraiser for Freedom Heroes USA.