Rethinking The Meaning of Veterans Day

Tue Nov 11, 2014 11:42:16AM
Categories: Barack Obama

President Obama laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in 2013By: SGT Garry McFadden
Veterans Day is one of those holidays that tends to make me think a lot. Millions of honorable American citizens have fought and died for our country, but I cringe at the collective groupthink we have in this country when it comes to idolizing a military that hasn't liberated one country since the end of World War II. I truly believe the time is right for us as a nation to rethink the way we thank our veterans.

The origins of Veterans Day are grounded in a desire to thank the soldiers who fought in the first World War. It was originally called Armistice Day, but was changed to Veterans Day in 1954 to recognize those who died in World War II and the Korean conflict. It has been celebrated on November 11th every year since then.

It's time that we as a people begin to reevaluate the wisdom of having a holiday that honors every single soldier who has served our country. It is important that we distinguish between a soldier who fought in an active war or conflict and a soldier who spent three years living the life on a military base in postwar Germany. I'm not suggesting the soldier in Germany isn't doing his or her part to serve the United States, but I am suggesting they are not heroes that we should have a federal holiday named after.

America currently has 50,000 soldiers in Japan; 40,000 soldiers in Germany; 30,000 soldiers in South Korea; and tens of thousands of soldiers in non-conflict zones throughout the planet. These soldiers lives are not the same as those stationed in Afghanistan or those who were recently stationed in Iraq. These soldiers are not in active combat zones or fighting any enemy. They are on sprawling military bases where the only shot they have to think about is of the liquid kind.

An individual is not automatically a hero just because they chose to serve in the military. That does a disservice to the thousands of men and women who fought and died when their country asked them to. We can thank those who served in the military without idolizing them. We can begin to do this by rethinking the way we celebrate Veterans Day.
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Veterans know what Veteran's Day means! "We know Veteran's Day is about the men and women we once served alongside; the voluble Marine, who was always eager to talk about her kids, and the reverent soldier who led prayer in chapel. We still think of them from time to time, though always on Veteran's Day. And when we meet our fellow veterans, we always know exactly what we mean when we pat their back and take their hand and say, "Thank you for your Service". (excerpt from "What a Veteran Knows", by Joe Carter