Veterans Day, which was originally founded around the virtue of the cessation of hostilities in World War I rather than the commemoration of any individual, should be a holiday beyond reproach.
Veterans Day had its origin in 1918 at the end of World War I, a conflict that was at that time so horrendous that it was dubbed “the Great War” or “the war to end all wars,” with the United States playing the decisive role in the Allied Powers’ final victory.
It was first known as Armistice Day, celebrated on Nov. 11 because that was the day agreed upon by the Allied nations and Germany to begin a total cessation of hostilities. It went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, after some 20 million people from both sides had given their lives in the war effort.
For many years thereafter, Armistice Day was just recognized on a state level. Twenty years later, when the winds of an even greater war were blowing toward what would be known as World War II — with Germany having annexed Austria and making clear preparations to take over Czechoslovakia — the U.S. Congress passed the act to establish Armistice Day as a legal federal holiday on May 13, 1938. Ironically, it was said at that very time to be “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.”
As it painfully turned out, World War II was almost four times more costly for the U.S. than World War I — with 405,400 lives lost as compared to the First World War, in which 116,516 Americans died. The supposition of the 1918 Armistice was completely undone, and eventually, after World War II and the Korean War, veterans service organizations lobbied Congress to amend the 1938 act by striking out the word “Armistice” and replacing it with the word “Veterans.” President Eisenhower was supportive and signed off on the name change on June 1, 1954, making Veterans Day a federal holiday to be established on Nov. 11 “to honor American veterans of all wars.”
As the holiday evolved, Veterans Day became one of America’s most patriotic holidays, with a profuse display of the red, white, and blue and Main Street parades of veterans in towns across the country. Every American felt gratitude for veterans, for they had been willing to make the ultimate sacrifice — in the defense of freedom for the homeland and other countries. In addition, military service inculcated veterans with lasting patriotic attitudes that prompted them to stay engaged in political participation later in life. Not surprisingly, the number of veterans who turn out to vote has been consistently higher than non-veterans. For instance, in the 2022 elections, 62.7 percent of veterans turned out to vote, while only 51.3 percent of non-veterans did the same.
There are several reasons why contemporary America has become so divided. In part, it is due to the cultural Marxism that has swept through our public school system, which, by design, casts our heritage aside. It’s also likely related to the decline in the number of elected members of Congress who have sacrificed and served their country in the armed forces. In 1967 and in 1975, respectively, 75 percent of House members and 81 percent of U.S. senators were veterans. Today less than 20 percent of lawmakers in both houses have had any prior military experience.
Despite these developments, the political importance of veterans has made significant advancements. In March of 1989, President Reagan elevated the Veterans Administration (VA) to a cabinet-level department with the creation of the secretary of veterans affairs.
President Trump did even more to help rank-and-file veterans, spending considerable time thanking and honoring veterans at public events and political rallies. More importantly, he delivered on a campaign promise to implement real reforms of the VA health care system, providing new options to ensure more timely and higher levels of health care delivery to veterans. The VA MISSION Act was a landmark bill that, when signed into law in June of 2018, expanded private health care options for veterans for the first time, providing them with prompt access to the best medical care available, whether at the VA or at a private provider.
The U.S. has always stood for freedom and against aggression and tyranny. Surely many Americans who enlisted to serve in wartime knew neither the forsaken places they were going nor what they would encounter, but they all had a distinct conviction that they were fighting not only to set overseas captives free but to protect freedom at home.
Of all foreign wars in which Americans were engaged, World War II is by far the largest, with more than 16 million soldiers serving or deployed overseas. Today, less than 1 percent of those veterans remain alive as the remnants of the “Greatest Generation.” This Nov. 11, when we think about these veterans who are likely to pass away of old age over the next few years, we should remember that for America to continue its great heritage, it must inculcate in its citizens a willingness to sacrifice and fight to preserve liberty. Ben Franklin reminds us: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
From an article by Scott Powell