Veterans’ Day 2015

memorial day

By Ellen Leventhal

A little history lesson and food for thought today.

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the year 1918,  an armistice was signed, and the fighting between the Allied forces and Germany ceased. Although The Treaty of Versailles wasn’t signed until June, 1919, most people consider November 11, 1918 the end of World War I.

A year later, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first Armistice Day. This day was to honor those who served as well as to commemorate the armistice.

Of course, although some called WWI “The war to end all wars,” this was not to be. And it was certainly not the end of US Veterans coming back to a different home from which they left.

In 1945, a WWII vet named Raymond Weeks came up with the idea to honor all veterans, not just those who served in WWI. Thus Armistice Day was changed to Veterans’ Day.

We still celebrate Veterans’ Day, but what does that mean in 2015? I asked a group of third graders for their definition of a veteran. One said, “Someone who retired from a war.”

Another said, “An alumni of a war.”

Still another said, “A man or woman who fought for our country, but they just need to be in the military. They don’t need to fight in a war.”

All good answers but my eye was on one girl deep in thought. She stood up and said this. “A veteran is someone who fought for our country, but isn’t respected when he or she gets home. It’s very hard to come back home and go back to your normal life. People need to be nicer to them.”

Hmm….out of the mouths of babes.

This is not a political post. I’m a teacher and a writer, not a politician. But I am a human. And as a human, I find it difficult to understand why some of our veterans have to stand on street corners and beg because they cannot find jobs. It pains me to see some having to wait months or sometimes years to be seen in a Veterans’ Hospital. And my heart breaks when I see veterans turning to drugs just to stop the pain…both physical and emotional.

So what does that say about our celebration of Veterans’ Day 2015? I’m not sure. But I would like to think we can do better. Please join the conversation.