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This Monday was Veterans Day. Whether you are close to a veteran or not, I would encourage you to take a few minutes to reflect on why this holiday exists.
The date of November 11th harkens back to the last day of the First World War, when the guns which had been firing for over four years came to a stop on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. At 11:00 on 11/11/1918, the Armistice between the Entente Powers, also called the Allied Powers, and Germany took effect (earlier armistices had already come into effect with Germany’s allies in the war). Between 15 and 19 million people lay dead, including 110,000 Americans. Tens of millions more had been wounded.
This was called “The War to End All Wars,” and all of the nations whose citizens fought and died in the conflict commemorated the anniversary of that day in 1919. And again in 1920. Over time, almost all of the belligerent nations officially marked the date with solemn tributes to the dead and honor to those who went to war – whether they came home or not. This holiday was called, variously, “Armistice Day,” “Remembrance Day,” and sometimes “Veterans Day.” In the United States, it was marked as “Armistice Day” from 1919 onwards. It was formalized as a federal holiday by act of congress in 1938, “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.” As early as 1945, a World War II veteran named Raymond Weeks began advocating for a day to honor all veterans of all of America’s wars. This celebration began in some places as soon as 1947, but congress officially renamed the day “Veterans Day” in 1954, and designated the day to honor all veterans.
Since 1914, over 30 million American men and women have served our nation during wartime, and millions more served during peacetime (although their service is no less honorable, the public records tracking these veterans are not as complete). During that same period, over 1.1 million Americans were wounded while fighting or supporting our nation’s wars. Just over 7 percent of the US population are veterans (about 22 million people), and here in Nebraska, around 9 percent of our friends and neighbors have served (about 130,000 people, according to the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs). That’s a lot of people to be thankful for! And we also have to be thankful that we have such a high percentage of our population who have served. Veterans are resilient and hard-working, more likely to start successful small businesses, and bring home higher median earnings. But it’s not all good news. Veterans are more likely to have been divorced, more likely to be at risk of suicide, and more likely to struggle health concerns. Our veteran neighbors are great men and women, but they must never stop receiving our support. In addition to thanking the veterans you know on Veterans Day, I would encourage you to show your support throughout the rest of the year, by volunteering with or donating to a charity which serves our veteran community in some way. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and may God continue to Bless our veterans and our great Nation.