Today we celebrate Veteran’s Day in the United States. It was first commemorated on November 11, 1919 because an armistice or a cease-fire in World War I occurred in the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day, in the eleventh month. World War I was known as the war to end all wars. The day was set aside to honor the soldiers who fought in that war and to honor the day that peace had been secured.
Sadly, in 1939, World War II began and the Korean Conflict occurred after that. World War I was clearly not the war that would end all wars. In 1954, President Eisenhower designated November 11th as Veteran’s Day, where all American veterans of all wars would be honored for their service to our country.
According to the U.S. Census, there are currently 21.2 million veterans living today. That seems like a lot, but it breaks down to only about 13% of U.S. adults. That’s a small amount of people who have done a huge amount of work to guarantee our freedom and safety.
I attended a Veteran’s Day Celebration yesterday at my son’s middle school. I have to say that I was moved to tears as the students called out statistics of those who paid for our freedom with their lives. The band played songs of all of the military branches. The chorus sang patriotic songs. Two students read essays. One of them was an Indian immigrant. He pointed out how safe he feels in America. He said in America, when a hundred people die of swine flu, the U.S. goes on alert. Everyone is upset and they make sure no one else dies. In India, a hundred people dying is no big deal. He believes that we value life in this country and that’s due to the men and women in the military who keep us safe and help allow life to have such a high value here. I never thought about it that way.
The guest speaker was a man named Colonel Robert Guy. He is a retired teacher from the school and beloved. He is a West Point graduate and served two tours in Vietnam among many other accomplishments. When he spoke, it was pin drop silent, which in a middle school gymnasium, is pretty amazing.
He said an 8th grader once asked him what the Army taught him. He said he had to give it some thought, but came up with five of the most important things he learned from the Army.
The first was duty. He said that was nothing more than doing your best work to the best of your ability, every single day, no matter what. What would the world look like if we all lived like that?
The second was concern for others. He said you always had to be willing to do more than your part to keep others from falling into the hands of the enemy. In other words, “It’s not about you.” Those are wise words for sure.
The third was trust. In the military you have to trust others to do their job and they must be able to trust you. In life or death situations, this is a no brainer, but what if we lived our civilian lives in that manner?
The fourth was respect, respect for the flag, respect for superiors and respect for other service members. He said if we all respected one another, there would be no bullying and everyone’s self-worth would be in good shape.
The fifth was be creative. No one in any military situation ever felt like that had enough people or time, but they had to figure out a way to get it done and they did. What if we all took that attitude?
I left the ceremony with many points to ponder. I’m so very thankful that these children got to hear such wise words from a true American hero. I’m thankful this day for all of our veterans. Their sacrifice is something we can never truly repay. Let’s all take a moment and say a prayer of thanks for their service. They are real life heroes.
Have an awesome day!