Did you thank a veteran this week?

By Pete Hanebutt, NDFB Public Policy Director

Our country celebrated Veterans Day this week, and sometimes it seems a shame this holiday is not more fully honored within our society. There are some truly wonderful celebrations, honoring those who have served their country and their fellow citizens, putting their lives on the line to defend our nation. Unfortunately, the holiday has become more about whatever sale is happening at stores, and less about outwardly thanking those who have protected us from our enemies. In rural America, our communities tend to be more reverent and introspective regarding both Veterans Day, and Memorial Day, and I believe that says a lot about the heartland.

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Most of our other holidays allow us to honor and commemorate an event from our past, either a birthday of an honored leader, or an event which changed America significantly. But Veterans Day really is unique by giving us a day to set aside when we as common citizens can look a former service member in the eye, shake their hand and genuinely say, “Thank you for your service to our country.”

Originally, November 11th was set aside as Armistice Day, honoring those veterans of the Great War, now known as World War 1. Memorial Day had been called Decoration Day, a day when the graves of those who died in the Civil War were decorated, and thus was a way of honoring those who gave, as President Lincoln said: “The last full measure of devotion.” This tradition continued through the years for all who lost their lives during their service. But Armistice Day was changed by an act of Congress following World War 2, to honor all veterans, not just the WW1 survivors, and Veterans Day was first proclaimed by President Eisenhower in 1954. Since then, the holiday has honored ALL veterans regardless of when they served; but unlike some of our holidays which are set to fall on a Monday, regardless of the date to assure a three-day weekend, Veterans Day has been maintained on November 11, as a demonstration of respect for the original intent of honoring those WW1 veterans.

The veterans of WW1 have long-since passed, but we still honor their memory. Sadly, the WW2 and Korean War veterans are quickly passing as well, but we are blessed to still have many veterans to celebrate and thank this year. Our veterans come from all walks of life in America, from immigrants to families that have been here for over 200 years. Some of our veterans have served with distinction and in harm’s way in places around the world most of us have never heard about. Others served in office jobs within the military structure, but that makes their service no-less important.

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Service members, and their families, give more to this country than most citizens recognize, and I hope this Veterans Day everyone found an opportunity to say thank you to a veteran. I hope we remember it is not the publisher who defends our freedom of speech, it is not the clergy who defend our right to worship as we see fit, and it is not the professional athlete who defends our right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness: It is our active service members and our veterans who have defended all these things. We should thank them daily, but especially on Veterans Day.

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