Many of you may remember that Veterans Day was once called Armistice Day. It commemorated when the Armistice for WWI was signed: the 11th month, the 11th day, the 11th hour. After WWII, it was a day set aside to remember those who fought in both world wars. We didn’t start calling it Veterans’ Day until 1954, when it was decided that November 11th would be designated as Veterans Day to honor the veterans of all US wars.
As I sat to write this, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say. In light of the recent discord in the US brought about by a vicious presidential campaign and election, I wanted to stay away from politics, which only seems to divide us, and focus on the reason we celebrate Veterans Day in the first place. It’s not about a day off (if you’re lucky enough to get one) or big sales to help you beat the crush on Black Friday. It’s about the men and women who have served our country, and those who are still serving; it’s about those who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who were lucky enough to make it home. My father was a WWII veteran. My husband is a Vietnam Veteran. I have many other family members and friends who served our country. I’m proud and grateful to all of them.
While I was on vacation two weeks ago, I had the privilege of visiting the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor on Oahu. Like most people, I had some knowledge of what happened on December 7, 1941. I knew it was a quiet Sunday morning, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States entered WWII.
But I didn’t know the attack lasted 110 minutes, from 7:55 a.m. until 9:45 a.m. I didn’t know that a total of 2,335 U.S. servicemen were killed and 1,143 were wounded, that sixty-eight civilians were also killed and 35 were wounded. I’d never seen actual film footage of the bombing or heard the breaking voices of the survivors as they recalled that day of infamy, a day that changed the world forever.
To stand on the USS Arizona Memorial, having now experienced these things, knowing that below the water are so many who will never be retrieved, is a humbling thing. The spirits of these men call to you. They cry out so we are forced to remember them, so that their sacrifice will not be in vain.
I went searching for a quote that might be suitable to end this post and found a plethora of wisdom out there for the taking. These two resonated with me as I hope they will resonate with you when next you say, “Remember Our Veterans!”
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” —John F. Kennedy
“I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, ‘Mother, what was war?’” —Eve Merriam
To All Our Veterans–Thank You For Your Service