Northwest Missourian Opinion

Nov. 11, 2020, marks 101 years since the end of World War I. You should have learned about this special day in school. Originally known as Armistice Day, Veterans Day is a moment of commemoration for veterans of all wars. Some made it home. Others paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our country remains free.

Especially given the way this year’s going, I think we can all agree we need something to help unify the country, even if only for a few moments. With your help and reverence, this solemnity can be that reminder that we are in fact part of the United States of America.

The difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day often creates confusion among some of us. Memorial Day, which is observed the last Monday of May, is to remember those who never made it out of uniform. Veterans Day, on the other hand, honors all those who are serving or have served. 

Following its first few years of existence, Armistice Day was made a national observance in 1926. It became a national holiday 12 years later in 1938. President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the day its current name in 1954. Since that time, the day has been added to the list of observances in several Allied countries.

Inevitably, serving overseas might be rewarding in the moment. However, as a lot of you know, there is also a dark reality that doesn’t make its presence known until long after you’ve left the battlefield. Post-traumatic stress disorder affects the lives of some 300,000 veterans — and that figure is from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone. The true number of PTSD diagnoses is much higher, affecting on average a quarter of those who served in the Vietnam War up through Operation Iraqi Freedom back in 2003. As sobering as it might be to comprehend, suicide rates among veterans are also quite high. In 2012, per the American Psychiatric Association, more deaths were caused among our nation’s finest by suicide, even overtaking combat.

Especially in today’s society, solemnities like Veterans Day seem to go largely unmarked by the public. It feels like people have to be prompted to commemorate the day and those who serve, namely by events the city might put on or leaving flowers at a loved one’s grave inside the town cemetery. 

Fire departments might hold community breakfasts with proceeds from admission going to charitable causes like the Disabled Veterans of America or the local Veterans Affairs hospital. Unfortunately, if members of the community didn’t step up to offer these social engagements or outside opportunities, most young folk would likely pass the holiday off as “just another day.” It really pains me to say that, but I’m just calling it as I see it.

As you continue through life as an American, I encourage you to express gratitude and respect to those who have served. How that’s done might look different for everyone. What matters, though, is this: You’re letting someone who put their life on the line for you know their sacrifice hasn’t gone unnoticed. As little as that might seem, there are a lot of veterans in this country who would appreciate such a gesture more than you know.

Even though there’s less than two months of the year left, I challenge all of you to make the most of what remains. Take time to reflect and show respect to what matters, especially this Veterans Day. Be grateful for all the liberties we Americans enjoy and don’t ever take them for granted. After all, freedom is not free.

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