Veterans Day, the forgotten holiday

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First published in the Batesville Daily Guard Nov. 9th, 2016

Preparations are already being made for the holidays. Thanksgiving dinners are being planned, travel plans are being booked, stores started displaying Christmas décor sometime around August, but there is one holiday that is likely being overlooked in the midst of all of this.

Veterans Day is this Friday, and while most of you likely support our veterans, this holiday sort of flies under the radar for most of us who are not employed by the federal government, especially this year. I mean, all of America’s attention up until this morning has been totally consumed with election coverage and there has been precious little room for anything else in the Continuum. Before I get to why Veterans Day deserves more recognition than it typically gets, let’s take a moment to examine how it came to be.

The armistice with Germany officially went into effect on Nov. 11, 1918 at 11 a.m., effectively ending World War I. President Woodrow Wilson issued the first Armistice Day message the next year on the anniversary of that event, and in 1926 Congress passed a resolution requesting that President Calvin Coolidge issue a proclamation calling for an annual observance of the Armistice on Nov. 11. It became an official federal holiday in 1938, known as “Armistice Day.” The name of the holiday was changed to “Veterans Day” (no apostrophe) in 1954 to recognize veterans of all wars, not just World War I.

So why does Veterans Day deserve our recognition? Well, the obvious answer is that our veterans have sacrificed so much of themselves and their lives to do what they do to ensure our country remains free and our interests are advanced around the world. Many have lost their lives, many have lost their quality of life either through physical injury, mental and emotional wounds (commonly referred to as Post-Traumatic Stress) … many have lost marriages and relationships due to extended absences. Many have missed birthdays, anniversaries, children’s first steps and words, and many more important life events while serving our country abroad.

Bottom line? America can never repay our veterans for the sacrifices they have made in the course of serving in combat. There is also an apparently not-so-obvious answer as well…

We are still at war. Though we shut the lights off in Iraq and pulled all of our troops out in 2011, we have had to send as many as 5,000 of them back since then, with another estimated 1,300 on their way over before the end of this year. There has been talk since 2009 of pulling all of our troops out of Afghanistan, yet at least 10,000 remain in that country.

Now we have troops in Jordan and Syria as well, with others stationed for sustainment operations in Kuwait and still more conducting training exercises in Eastern Europe just in case Russia decides to be … well, Russia. In just the last couple of weeks we have lost at least five Americans due to combat-related injuries, including three Special Forces troops currently stationed in Jordan.

Veterans Day is not a political issue and it is not a politically-driven holiday. Regardless of whether you agree politically with the current state of U.S. military operations abroad, we still have troops in harm’s way doing what less than 1 percent of all Americans will ever be willing or able to do. They deserve our respect, they deserve our admiration, and they certainly deserve at least one day of our time to thank them and express our appreciation for what they do.

Frank Vaughn, award-winning columnist and aspiring author, can be contacted at frank@fnvaughn.com. Follow/like Frank Vaughn on Facebook, @fnvaughn on Twitter and fnvaughn on Instagram.

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