Today I’m contemplating the essence of one of our nation’s most meaningful holidays. Off the top of our heads, how many of us can explain the difference between the meaning of Veterans Day (today, November 11) and Memorial Day (celebrated on May 31)?
Both days are sacred to the United States of America, but the distinction is significant – and to me, both days are necessary and fitting to properly honor the millions who have sacrificed to keep our country alive and strong.
Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans, living or deceased. And it gives us all a chance to convey sincere gratitude to our living veterans who have honorably served their country in war and peace.
You may have noticed that the name “Veterans Day” doesn’t include a possessive apostrophe but it is plural – that’s because it’s not a day veterans own; it’s meant to create an opportunity to appreciate their selfless efforts and sacrifices on behalf of our country.
The end of World War I a little over a century ago became known as Armistice Day, when hostilities ended on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour with the signing of a peace agreement. Armistice Day was named in honor of this final moment of what had been touted as “the war to end all wars.”
But as we know, WWI was most unfortunately not the last of horrible armed conflicts on Earth. When hostilities in Korea ended decades later with the signing of an armistice, the word “armistice” began to take on a different meaning – a weaker kind of compromise outcome, as opposed to a decisive victory.
So in 1954, President (and former Supreme Commander and General) Dwight D. Eisenhower renamed Armistice Day as Veterans Day.
Who are our veterans?
The military men and women who serve and protect our freedom and the United States, are our parents, children, grandparents, friends, neighbors and coworkers, and are an irreplaceable part of our communities.
Here are some facts from History.com about the veteran population of the United States:
- 19 million living veterans served during at least one war as of April 2021.
- 11 percent of veterans are women.
- 5.9 million veterans served during the Vietnam War.
- 7.8 million veterans served in the Gulf War era.
- Of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II, about 240,000 were still alive as of 2021.
- 933,000 veterans served during the Korean War.
- As of 2021, the top three states with the highest percentage of Veterans were Alaska, Virginia and Montana.
So today, I join you and encourage you to reflect on the invaluable service of all of our nation’s veterans – every man and woman – and urge you to express outwardly your appreciation to any veteran you’re fortunate enough to encounter on this solemn and meaningful day.
In gratitude and service,
P.S. A list of Veterans Day programs, parades and ceremonies in San Diego County can be found here. Orange County events are here.
And here are some links to free meals and other discounts available to veterans today:
• The Pacific Coast Grill in Cardiff is offering a free lunch to veterans; reservations are encouraged.
• Fox 5 has a list of Veterans Day freebies and discounts.
• Military.com also offers a bunch of Deals, Discounts and Freebies, listed by category.
• In Orange County, here are links from the OC Register.