By Kristy Verdi, Learn and Serve Tampa, Inc.
Veterans Day. No apostrophe. It’s a plural noun and not possessive. It belongs to all who served and came home.
Veterans Day, the day we honor all veterans, is celebrated in many countries around the world. It began as a day to remember those lost to war. Some call it Remembrance Day. Some countries still call it Armistice Day.
November 11, 1918 marked the first ceasefire called in “The Great War,” World War I. While the ceasefire would be renewed another three times before the Treaty of Versailles officially ended the war the following summer, the “laying down of arms” on November 11th effectively ended the fighting.
Many may not know the armistice was agreed upon at 5:20 a.m. that November morning, but one negotiator liked the ring of “the 11th hour, on the 11th day, in the 11th month,” so the official signing was postponed until 11:00 a.m. Tragically, during the next five and a half hours between 5:21 a.m. and 10:59 a.m., more than 11,000 service members were killed or wounded. For many, 11:00 a.m. never came.
The following year, in November 1919, many nations honored those who died throughout the war with Armistice Day celebrations. In 1921, an unknown American soldier’s remains from a World War I European battlefield were interred at Arlington National Cemetary in a memorial ceremony on Armistice Day, and a wreath-laying tradition began.
After World War II, the war after “the war to end all wars,” the first American Veterans Day was celebrated on November 1, 1947, in Alabama. The shift from a memorial observance to honoring those who had survived began to take shape. By 1954, the U.S. government had officially declared November 11th a federal holiday named Veterans Day. This new holiday honoring everyone who made it home called for parades and celebrations.
While “Happy Veterans Day” is acceptable verbiage, I remind students that while we celebrate the living on Veterans Day, we should also remember that those veterans often carry with them the loss of those who did not return or returned less than whole.
Veterans Day is observed each year on November 11th, which means it can be on a Monday, a Thursday, or, as is the case this year, a Saturday. Congress tried to set it for the last Monday of October, but the “11th hour of the 27th day of the 10th month” just didn’t have the same ring to it. However, being a federal holiday, local, state, and federal offices and schools will be closed on Friday, November 10, this year in observance. Due to these closures, schools hosting Veterans Day ceremonies will hold them on Thursday, November 9. Be prepared for those early invitations.
Veterans, you need to go to these events. Our youth need to see you, watch you stand, and salute our flag. Wear your uniform. It might be a squeeze, but give it a go. If not your uniform, wear your cover, your medals, or anything that makes you stand out as a United States Armed Forces veteran. This is your day, but it is also your chance to draw in a new generation of service members, which we need very much. If your local school isn’t planning a Veterans Day ceremony, ask the principal, “Why not?” Offer to help plan it! Call Learn and Serve Tampa, Inc.! Remember, go with grace. We civilians have much to learn.
For the young and many civilian adults, there is often a great deal of confusion about many military traditions. For example, understanding the many types of veterans and, for that matter, the differences between active duty, reserves, and the National Guard. Titles and ranks can also be confusing; only some civilians know a Staff Sergeant outranks a Sergeant. Adding a new branch to our military didn’t help the situation either. Additionally, each branch also has a seal, a song, a march, and a chant. Some civilians could also use help clarifying the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
On a final note, Memorial Day, which falls on the fourth Monday in May, is now outside most school schedules and marks the end of the school year in many places. Regrettably, this means that many schools lose the opportunity to honor Memorial Day and that lessons about this holiday get lost in the rush of final exams and end-of-the-year routines despite teachers’ best efforts.
Students are too excited about summer and the freedom it offers to give any attention to remembering those who died in service to their country. Ironic, wouldn’t you say? Let’s work together as a community to ensure the memories of those lost in the name of that freedom stay with our youth.
As veterans, you are our best resource to ensure that current and future generations can understand and appreciate the service and sacrifice given by those who didn’t make it home and to help us understand the service and, for many, the price still being paid by those who did. Thoughts and ideas are welcome.
To get involved, please see the contact information for Learn and Serve Tampa, Inc. at the end of this article.
Learn and Serve Tampa, Inc.
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