In a few days we will be celebrating Veterans Day – Not to be confused with Memorial Day; Veterans Day rarely falls on a weekend and I’m always a little confused when Memorial Day, the day we remember our fallen, turns into a weekend party.
I realize it’s the chronological nature of the holiday; the fact it always creates a three day weekend is what makes it so conducive to drunken beach revelry… but, just considering the nature of the holiday, it would make sense for it to be a little more somber and sober.
Don’t get me wrong; on most Memorial Days the prospect of catching me in “Adult Mode” or anyplace other than on the lake with an adult beverage… is very low.
Veterans Day is a different Story – It is SUPPOSED to be a celebration – it was invented to be a celebration.
Drunken forays into public places accompanied by the sounds of slurred patriotic songs, unintentional spillage and stories that all begin with “No Shit; there I wuz…” or “You ain’t gonna believe this shit…” are completely appropriate for Veterans Day.
Veterans Day is a time to share our experiences, revel in our victories and remember our losses. Do I need to remind you that we are the only nation on earth to adopt a drinking song as our National Anthem?
Be proud of it… and SING IT.
Originally called Armistice Day, Veterans Day is celebrated by the majority of the civilized world, or at least what was the civilized world in 1918.
Crown nations call it “Remembrance Day” and it is standard in European nations to observe 2 minutes of silence at 1100hrs on November 11th. In Germany the Fasching season (Octoberfest) starts 9 minutes and 11 seconds later. At 11:11.11hrs on November 11th. Even Latvia celebrates Nov. 11th as the day Latvian Partisans kicked Russian ass in the “Great War”.
On Veterans Day we celebrate military service. We give props to those who were willing to take that oath – regardless of where they went or what job they performed. Taking the oath is in itself an Act of Valor worth toasting.
Veterans Day started with the end of World War One, a “war to end all wars and make the world safe for Democracy” as U.S. President Woodrow Wilson described it.
The First World War officially ended on June 28th 1919 but hostilities ceased by armistice months earlier on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month the prior year . (European leaders have an historical propensity for incorporating weirdness and odd symbolism into their capitulations.)
Senior Commanders were informed that the shooting was to stop on November 11th 1918, at 1100hrs. They called it the war to end all wars because most world leaders truly believed we had become so destructive and brutal that no one would ever risk such a war again.
A dark note to the end of this terrible war is many senior officers on both sides were under the same errant impression of there being a flicker of good, hiding down deep somewhere, in humanity. They were afraid they would never again get the opportunity to shine in battle.
Instead of sitting tight and not risking the lives of their troops, opposing commanders sent out combat patrols in the hours before the ceasefire resulting in pointless loss of good soldiers on both sides. On the up side; most of the world decided to declare November 11th a celebration. It is a universal party in the majority of places you or I might chose to vacation.
I can’t write an article without including some sort of useless information so here are a few Veterans Day related facts:
- It’s “Veterans Day” (plural) – not “Veteran’s Day”.
- civilian POW of the Japanese for 3 years during WW2.
- 33% of all living veterans served during Viet Nam – 7.8 million
- 9.2 million Veterans are over the age of 65.
- 1.9 million Veterans are under the age of 35.
- 1.8 million Veterans are women.
- More veterans served during the Gulf Wars than WWII and Korea combined. (Gulf war service is from Aug. 2, 1990, to present). Almost 6 million of you took the oath.
- 2.6 million Veterans served during World War II (1941-1945).
- 2.8 million Veterans served during the Korean War (1950-1953).
- Over 6 million veterans served in peacetime..
- There are 5 states can boast having more than 1 million veterans: California, Florida, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania. California has the most with almost 3 million.
- In 1954, the name of the holiday was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
- In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed by Congress; Veterans Day was changed to the fourth Monday in October.
- In 1975 President Ford returned Veterans Day to November 11.
- Veterans Day is the only non-religious holiday we share with other nations.
Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day is a celebration of life… A time to remember the actions and exploits of those who lead the way and stood in the gap for liberty; the ones who lived to tell about it as well as those who freely gave what Abraham Lincoln referred to as the last full measure of devotion.
A quick glance at the list of Havok Journal authors will reveal that the majority of HJ authors are veterans, and some of the ones who arn’t veterans, have an even more painful connection to the oath we took.
Personally, I don’t ever say “Thank You” to veterans. Simply because it makes me feel funny to have some stranger thank me for serving, but I remember a day, in about 1968, that I stood proudly with my father as he greeted a group of soldiers deplaning at Travis AFB – Right back from Viet Nam.
He greeted each one personally with – “Welcome Home and a JOB DAMN WELL DONE”.
Regardless if you wore OD Green, Kaki, Blue, White, or were one of the ghosts from The Farm –
To You I Say… “WELCOME HOME … AND A JOB DAMN WELL DONE.”
I salute you – I’ll be tipping several in your honor on Veterans Day.
Fratribus Sine Pari
This article was originally published on November 6, 2015