Respect our troops: a case for honoring Veterans Day

Respect+our+troops%3A+a+case+for+honoring+Veterans+Day

Peter Arvanitis

I joined Soldiers’ Stories in my junior year, noticing that veterans are an overlooked group in our society. Service members are willing to sacrifice their lives to protect fellow citizens, but when they return from battle, they face higher rates of homelessness and receive poor healthcare. Soldiers’ Stories did a great job of informing the school community about these issues that service members face. This drew me towards the club, but I was just as interested in providing an outlet for students to catalyze change for veterans. Since Veterans Day was this week, it is important to be thoughtful about this brave group of citizens. 

World War I officially ended on June 28, 1919, when the Allied and Central powers signed the Treaty of Versailles. However, the fighting stopped on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when hostilities ended between Germany and the Allied nations. As a result, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed on November 11, 1919 that it was “Armistice Day,” or the anniversary of the end of The Great War. 

In 1926, Congress passed a resolution recognizing the end of WWI, which celebrated “the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far-reaching war in human annals.” The resolution stated that Armistice Day’s recurring anniversary is fitting, as it aligns closely with Thanksgiving, and should be a day to “perpetuate peace through goodwill and mutual understanding between nations.” The Act was approved in 1938, making November 11 a federal holiday honoring the veterans of WWI.

In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower expanded the scope of the holiday to include American veterans of all wars, changing the name of the holiday from “Armistice Day” to “Veterans Day.” In 1968, Veterans Day, along with Washington’s Birthday, Columbus Day, and Memorial Day, was moved to a Monday in an attempt to encourage travel and spending over long weekend holidays. Ultimately, because of its great historic and patriotic significance to many Americans, President Ford moved Veterans day back to its intended day of observance: November 11. 

The American public’s disapproval with the moving of Veterans Day shows the true importance of the holiday and what it represents to many. As Americans, the freedoms that we enjoy have been safeguarded by those who are willing to risk their lives for our country. Our nation was birthed by the same spirit, one which was able to, despite all odds, rebel against an oppressive and monarchical government to uphold core values that we still abide by today: equality, rights, liberty, opportunity, and democracy. Though America hasn’t perfectly upheld these values, she has always been moving in the right direction, seen when brother fought against brother to end the most horrific practice in our nation’s history: slavery. In the 20th century, the United States sent young Americans to fight in WWII in order to uphold those same values against fascism and communism. Facing almost certain death, thousands of Americans selflessly stormed the beaches of Normandy, leading to the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi control. 

In more recent history, endless wars have caused the loss of countless American lives in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. It is important to recognize that although we may not support every U.S. conflict or foreign involvement, we must respect those willing to sacrifice their lives for our beliefs, our country, and our freedom. When commemorating veterans, we are commemorating survivors of war, survivors who were willing to die for their convictions, the same ideals enshrined by our Constitution, and inspired by Enlightenment thinkers and classical liberalism. These sentiments should be widespread within our community, and we should be grateful for those who are willing to serve, especially considering how unpopular joining the service is for the majority of the population. As President Wilson said, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service.”

As Veterans Day is a federal holiday, all public schools in our country have the day off, a practice that should be extended to our own community at Horace Mann. As a school, we have off on all but one national holiday that occurs from the months of September to May. Unfortunately, the only national holiday during our school year that goes unobserved is Veterans Day. If we are going to be in school on Veterans day, we should at least celebrate and recognize the holiday, rather than leaving it unmentioned. While most other holidays commemorate a specific figure, moment, or custom, Veterans Day celebrates the sacrifices that men and women make to this day. These sacrifices will always relate to our modern reality as a country, as long as war exists and conflict defines history. Current, former, and deceased Armed Forces members deserve a prolonged moment of silence in the form of a school holiday, because, without them, we wouldn’t be able to offer our own moments of silence.