Veterans Day: A time to honor and thank those who serve

Published 7:04 pm Friday, November 10, 2023

Veterans Day is a federal holiday in the United States observed annually on Nov. 11 to honor and thank military veterans of the United States Armed Forces who have served their country, both domestic and foreign, in war and peace. The holiday is largely intended to thank living veterans for their sacrifices, but it is also a day to remember those who have died in service to their country.

Explore the significance of Veterans Day in honoring U.S. Armed Forces veterans, their sacrifices, and the ongoing support they need.

By Jimmy Durham

Veterans Day’s history dates back to World War I’s end. On Nov. 11, 1918, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, an armistice went into effect, ending the war. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for a nationwide observance of Armistice Day to honor the veterans of World War I. 

In 1926, Congress passed a resolution that made Armistice Day an official federal holiday. In 1954, after the end of World War II and the Korean War, Congress passed a bill that changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day so that it could honor veterans of all wars. The bill was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 1, 1954.

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While Veterans Day is a day for Americans to come together and express their gratitude for the men and women who have served in the military, it also has counterparts in other countries, like the UK’s Remembrance Day and France’s Armistice Day, reflecting a shared global history of honoring those who have served in military conflicts.

The Importance of Veterans Day

The Mississippi VA Veterans Home in Oxford hosted a ceremony on Nov. 10, where community members and loved ones gathered to honor veterans for their military service. The ceremony began with the Oxford High School Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) presenting the colors, a traditional segment involving a march with the national flag and other banners to pay respect to the veterans.

Explore the significance of Veterans Day in honoring U.S. Armed Forces veterans, their sacrifices, and the ongoing support they need.

Mississippi State Veterans Home in Oxford hosted a ceremony to honor veterans on Nov 10 (Jimmy Durham).

Following this, Staff Sgt. United States Air Force (retired) William Ginn led the Pledge of Allegiance. The JROTC then retired the colors, marching with the flag upright out of the main hall. 

Members of The University of Mississippi Men’s Glee, conducted by Dr. Donald Trott, performed ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ ‘Salute to the Armed Forces’ and ‘God Bless America.’

The guest speaker was local historian Starke Miller, who spoke about the importance of remembering the sacrifices of veterans, living and dead. He encouraged the audience to always remember the sacrifices veterans made to preserve safety and freedom worldwide and in the United States. “This is the land of the free because of the brave.”

Miller went on to say, “Only about 7 percent of Americans can say they are veterans. So 93 percent of Americans owe their freedom to 7 percent of the population.”

Winston Churchill on the Sacrifices of Veterans

To emphasize his point, Miller offered a quote from Winston Churchill: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Churchill spoke those words in 1940, during the Battle of Britain, when the Royal Air Force was outnumbered by the German Luftwaffe. Despite the odds, the RAF was able to defeat the Luftwaffe, saving Britain from invasion.

Those words are still relevant today. And underscores the universal value of sacrifice and duty as reflected in the global recognition of veterans who have defended their nations under demanding circumstances. 

Veterans’ Challenges: A Sobering Reality

Veterans from various U.S. war eras face distinct challenges shaped by the specifics of their service. Post-9/11 veterans, as reported by the Pew Research Center, often contend with deployment and combat-related emotional trauma and difficulty readjusting to civilian life. Vietnam War veterans, as highlighted in a study reported in The Journal of Traumatic Stress in 2022, show a higher prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and psychological distress. Korean War and World War II veterans, according to Veterans Affairs, are at risk of health issues stemming from extreme environmental conditions, occupational hazards, and exposure to harmful substances during their service.

Explore the significance of Veterans Day in honoring U.S. Armed Forces veterans, their sacrifices, and the ongoing support they need.

Mississippi State Veterans Home in Oxford (Jimmy Durham).

Veterans share challenges in common 

Alongside the era-specific challenges, veterans from all periods often face some common difficulties. These include readjusting to civilian life, mental health issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression, and navigating the complexities of receiving health care and benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Financial instability and finding meaningful employment post-service are also prevalent concerns. Despite their diverse service backgrounds, many veterans share these challenges, highlighting the overarching need for comprehensive and accessible support systems that address both the unique and common difficulties faced by veterans across different war eras.

Supporting Mississippi Veterans

Mississippians can support veterans through various means, such as donating to veterans’ charities, volunteering at health care facilities, employing veterans, and supporting veteran-owned businesses. On Veterans Day, we are reminded of our duty to honor and support those who have served.

Explore the significance of Veterans Day in honoring U.S. Armed Forces veterans, their sacrifices, and the ongoing support they need.

Veterans at the Mississippi State Veterans Home in Oxford during a ceremony to honor their service and sacrifices for the United States (Jimmy Durham).

Continuing Our Commitment to Veterans

Veterans Day serves as a poignant reminder of the immense sacrifices and contributions made by members of the United States Armed Forces. This day, steeped in historical significance, calls not only for reflection but also for action. It underscores the collective responsibility to support and acknowledge our veterans year-round, not just on Nov. 11. Through local ceremonies, community support, and ongoing advocacy for better services, we continue to honor the legacy and bravery of those who have served. Their sacrifices, past and present, forge a commitment to ensuring their well-being and recognition in our society.