A Day for Veneration, Not Vacation

November 11, 2009 marked the 90th anniversary of Veteran’s Day in America’s history.

In 1919, when Veteran’s Day was known as Armistice Day, Woodrow Wilson designated the day as one “filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service.”   That same day, Americans in every state honored the heroes of World War 1 with parades, speeches, and ceremonies.

Decades later, in 1954, Congress officially changed the holiday’s name to Veteran’s Day to encompass veterans of all wars, not just those of World War 1.  That day, Veteran’s Day expanded into nationwide a nationwide memorial, dedicated to all American veterans.

Fast forward to the present, where calendars mark the occasion years in advance, and the majority of Americans treat Veteran’s Day as day-long vacation.

For those of us who are not personally acquainted with veterans, Veteran’s Day is a yearly chance to recognize the debt we owe to our soldiers. Unfortunately, it does not seem like many took advantage of the opportunity.

Many students treated Veteran’s Day like a mini-vacation.  The studious worked ahead for school and everyone else whiled away the day. We slept in, we read, we caught up on the latest movies, we spent time with our friends—we did everything but honor the veterans.

Granted, Veteran’s Day is not the only time we have to honor America’s heritage.

In school, the Pledge of Allegiance is recited everyday. At each pep rally, the entire school falls silent when the marching band plays the Star Spangled Banner. But half the time, we do not stand for the pledge because we are doing something else.  Sometimes, students ignore the anthem because it interrupts their conversation with someone else.

But Veteran’s Day is a 24-hour window for acknowledgement.  We have the time to hang out with friends or do something else and express our gratitude.

We have all heard the accolades:  America would not be here without our soldiers, America is the home of the brave and land of the free, etcetera. But that seems to be the problem.  We are so accustomed to hearing the words that we forget the value behind them.

America was built on the sacrifices of the people who lived and died for us. America is the land of the free because it is the home of the brave.  We’re free to let our minds wander during the pledge or the anthem because of the individuals who inspired them.

It is an insult to our troops, both those in action oversees and those who fought in the past, to shrug off the one day dedicated to what they’ve done.

No, we are not expected drop everything and visit every memorial site in North Carolina. We are, however, asked to summon up a semblance of respect for American soldiers.

Next year, remember the reason why the government closes its doors on November 11.  Say a prayer for the soldiers in Iraq.  Visit a veterans’ hospital.  Thank a veteran for their service. Most of all, stop thinking of Veteran’s Day as a vacation and, at least this once, give soldiers the veneration they deserve.

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