By Heidi Welte:
Last Friday was Veterans Day, a day marked in the US by ceremonies honoring veterans and, in true capitalistic fashion, by sales and freebies offered by businesses for veterans and active duty service members. I never usually took advantage of the free food offered by restaurants because there is a high amount of active duty and veterans in the Norfolk, Virginia area and simply didn’t feel like waiting in line for hours. Nevertheless, I appreciate the thought. The advent of social media sites like Facebook are filled with patriotic sentiments on this day. Some change their profile picture to a photo from their military service days or to that of a family member who served, but the United States hasn’t always had a holiday dedicated to honoring her veterans.
Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day and celebrated the end of World War I on the first anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice. In 1926, Congress passed a resolution for the annual observation of the holiday and because of this, a national holiday in 1938. In 1954, President Eisenhower changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day, the name by which we know it today. Its date of observation was moved to the 4th Monday of October, effective in 1971. Fortunately, President Ford recognized the historic significance of the holiday’s original 11 November date and changed it back accordingly in 1975. The US has 21 million veterans, 2 million of which are women. Three states have more than 1 million veterans in their population – Texas, Florida and California.
The US isn’t the only country to have a holiday dedicated to honoring veterans. Great Britain celebrates Remembrance Sunday while her commonwealth countries, such as Canada and Australia, celebrate Remembrance Day. France and Belgium also celebrate Remembrance Day. Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday honor the veterans of the first and second world wars. The Netherlands also celebrates Remembrance Day, but does so in May. Norway’s Veterans Day is also in May, the same day that World War II ended in Europe. Poland celebrates 11 November as Independence Day. Israel has two such holidays, one takes place the Saturday. Score Remembrance Sunday and the second is on Remembrance Sunday itself. Red poppies, which grew in the WWI battlefields, are worn in Europe and the US. This was made popular by the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, a Canadian Lieutenant Colonel who served during WWI, and have come to represent the bloodshed of WWI. Germany does not celebrate the WWI armistice. Instead, Germany has a holiday similar to Memorial Day here in the US called Volkstrauertag, People’s Mourning Day in English, which takes place two Sundays before the first day of Advent. It honors military members and civilians killed during wars, including those killed due to government oppression.
We are not limited to remembering veterans and those killed in action on Veterans Day and Memorial Day, but it is a kind and important gesture to formally honor the sacrifices made by those who have both served and currently do so. I wish a Happy Veterans Day to all of my fellow veterans and brothers and sisters currently serving; Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard alike.
Heidi Welte is an OpsLens Contributor and U.S. Navy veteran.