Our View: Leave no confusion about our support for veterans

From the editorial: "It doesn't have to be (generic). The holiday doesn't have to be just an excuse for another mattress sale. Each of us can see to that."

Gary McCoy / Cagle Cartoons
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At first we called today's holiday Armistice Day. This was in 1919 when President Woodrow Wilson decided to mark the end of fighting in World War I and the armistice the year before on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. There were to be parades and ceremonies and other public events to commemorate and honor returning military men.

But Congress changed the holiday in 1954. In the wake of World War II and the Korean War, "Armistice" was replaced with "Veterans" to be more inclusive. Fourteen years after that, the Uniform Holiday Bill changed the holiday again, making Veterans Day another Monday holiday, never mind if it didn't fall exactly on the 11th day of the 11th month; giving federal workers a three-day weekend seemed more important. Finally, the holiday reverted back to Nov. 11, like it is now, in 1978.

All the jerking around has caused confusion about Veterans Day, and the holiday has become unfortunately reminiscent of our nation's uneasy and awkward history with returning military members. In the view of author and psychotherapist Ed Tick, who has treated hundreds of military veterans during a 40-years-plus career, "The holiday has morphed into a generic holiday," as he told the Times Union newspaper of Albany, New York, in 2014.

But it doesn't have to be. The holiday doesn't have to be just an excuse for another mattress sale. Each of us can see to that. We can remember that our veterans "signed up to give everything, including their life," as U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, the husband of a veteran, said in 2019 in an interview with the News Tribune Editorial Board. "When they come back, we have to make sure the services we promised (to) them are there."

Our warriors deserve at least that for their service and sacrifice. And make no mistake: In spite of troubling suicide and homelessness rates amongst veterans that demand to continue to be addressed, we as a nation are starting to do better. Where we used to exploit veterans for a long weekend and ignore their shell shock/PTSD/and whatever else we called the demons they brought home — and where we even spit on them and shunned them, as happened during the Vietnam era — veterans nowadays are the beneficiaries of support and assistance to ease their transitions back into productive civilian and family lives.


“A nation that forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten. We tell the world who we are as a country by how we honor our veterans,” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, said in a statement last year on Veterans Day. “Year after year, our servicemembers and veterans (go) above and beyond their standard call. So many of Minnesota’s nearly 327,000 veterans serve with distinction only to come home and serve their communities. They are teachers and paramedics, small business owners and farmers. (They are) heroes among us.”

That reverence for those who served and sacrificed demands to continue with another Veterans Day today. Restaurants, hair places, attractions, and elsewhere typically offer free lunches, complimentary admissions, and other specials to veterans. As a small thanks. For the recognition they deserve.

In the Twin Ports, among other Northland commemorations, a concert for veterans was performed Thursday evening at Denfeld High School; a program for students, veterans, and families is scheduled for 9 a.m. today at Stowe School in Gary-New Duluth; and an assembly is to be held at 9:15 a.m. today at Great Lakes Elementary in Superior, co-hosted with the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, to honor first responders, police officers, firefighters, and veterans.

In addition, at 11 a.m. today, American Legion Post 71 in West Duluth is hosting a Veterans Day event featuring remarks by retired Brig. Gen. Ron Hein and music by Bill Bastian and Proctor High School. Sandwiches, chips, and cake will be served.

When President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the holiday to Veterans Day in 1954, during peacetime after the 1950-’53 Korean War, he called upon Americans to "solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly" in war and to "reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain."

On Veterans Day and every day, we can do that by remembering and honoring not only those who fought but those who are fighting — and who will fight. In 2022, let's leave no confusion about our support and appreciation.

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