How can we honorably serve those who have served?Written by Pam Hays | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Fact: Nov. 11, 1918, at the eleventh hour, the armistice or temporary cessation of hostility of World War I was signed. The Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended World War I, was signed June 28, 1918, even though fighting had ended seven months earlier.
In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 to be Armistice Day for honoring all World War I veterans. Parades marked the occasion and business was suspended all over the country at 11 a.m.
On May 19, 1938, Congress made Armistice Day a legal federal holiday.
In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law a bill proclaiming Armistice Day to be a celebration of all veterans. Congress amended the act later that same year to change the holiday’s name and Veterans Day was born.
In 1968, Veterans Day was one of the days included in the Uniform Holiday Bill, which aimed to ensure federal employees had four three-day weekends each year. Beginning in 1971, Veterans Day was celebrated on a Monday no matter the calendar date, leaving behind the tradition of it being Nov. 11.
The change to the holiday caused confusion, so in 1975 President Gerald Ford signed a bill to return Veterans Day celebrations to Nov. 11, preserving the historical significance of the date.
Those are the facts of the day we know as Veterans Day in our country. But here is another fact that we have to consider: The sacrifices of our veterans deserve honor every day! Honor? How can we honorably serve those who have served?
It isn’t only about parades, free meals at a restaurant or an ad bought in a newspaper to say “thank you.” We can honor our veterans by voting for candidates who support veterans’ issues. We can honor our veterans by supporting nonprofits that understand the challenges facing our veterans and get involved in veterans’ lives by providing the understanding, caring and assistance our veterans need when government and social services leave huge gaps. We can show this honor by giving of our time, talent and money.
I sometimes hear statements that make me realize civilians are still very much in the dark about what it is like to serve in the military and then come home as a veteran, with or without wounds, and build a life. Some of this stems from the belief that our government provides for all the needs of our veterans and there is no need for outside nonprofits to be funded. After all, we have a huge budget in this country for services for our veterans, whether they be for health care, employment, counseling, suicide prevention, housing the homeless or judicial involvement.
The government funds more than 90 programs on veteran suicide alone, and yet nearly every single hour, a veteran takes his or her life! What this and other facts tell me is that services are not matching needs.
We have a lot of beautiful buildings in our country that are said to be “for veterans,” but buildings don’t bring about change; people do. A building might be beautiful, but if the services it houses make a veteran wait more than 30 days to be seen by a counselor it is a disgrace, not an honor. A veteran living in poverty, relying on family, friends and nonprofits to support their basic needs while the government system takes years to decide if their injuries are real and worth disability pay, even when clearly documented, is not a way to show honor. Relying on checked off boxes in a survey to get to know our veterans instead of building relationships that drive down stigma and open doors of opportunity to heal and move forward is not honorable; it’s just an attempt at an easy fix.
We have a lot of outrage in our country over many issues, but I seldom see civilians outraged over the way our military and our veterans are treated. I see veterans outraged, but they are a small minority, maybe 3 percent of our country’s population. Show honor to our veterans by becoming educated as to the truth about how our veterans are treated — not just the older veterans, but the younger ones as well.
Learn about the day-to-day struggles, their silent pleas for help, their invisible tears and how their needs are not being met. How can you become educated? Plan an event with your organization or your workplace that is civic-minded. It doesn’t have to be for Veterans Day; it can be any day.
I spend a great deal of my time educating civilians and would welcome the opportunity to speak with you and your group about the challenges of our veterans and more ways to show honor to them. I can share with you the good news about all the exciting ways veterans are facing their challenges and are giving, productive members of our community and communities around our country!
It takes a community to lift up a veteran. Let’s work together to ensure the veterans in our community are honorably served not for a day, but every day.
Pam Hays is president and founder of The Arms Forces, www.thearms forces.org: (419) 891-2111 and Facebook.com/thearmsforces.