November 11, 2010

Veterans Day rememberance

In August of 2009, Jacksonville, FL threatened to cancel its annual Veterans Day parade. The city council cut the funding. A virtual firestorm of protest by residents forced a cowed council to reverse the decision.

Jacksonville is not alone. Fresno, CA threatened the same this year, and similar stories have been appearing in newspapers across the nation for the last couple years. When it isn’t an outright cancellation of veterans activities, often it is some curtailment of government involvement.

Cities from New York to California have cut back on observances of the holiday, citing waning public interest. Cities are feeling the crunch from the recession and are looking for ways to scale back, and with public participation in Veterans activities declining, the holiday makes an easy target for budget hawks.

Veterans Day is an odd duck of a holiday. Many public schools, colleges and universities remain open - even with thousands of veterans sitting in their classrooms. While I sit here at home this morning, my teacher neighbor and her 8th grade son departed their home at their normal time.

Businesses operate as if nothing is going on. Such signs of business as usual give city officials what they see as reason to cut funds for Veterans Day events. Some even commit the ultimate insult of asking the veterans’ organizations themselves to front the money to pay for police and sanitation workers required for the parade, saying that tax revenues are better spent on holiday events and parades that turn a profit, or are of more interest to the public.

Veterans Day, November 11th, was originally called Armistice Day. Some call it Remembrance Day. The day of remembrance was established to commemorate the 11th day at the 11th hour of the 11th month when, with the stroke of a pen, World War I ended.

In the United States it became an official day of observance in 1926, and was declared a national holiday by Congress in 1938. For many years, American school children paid tribute with a moment of silence at 11:00 AM. On June 1, 1954, Congress changed the name from Armistice to Veterans Day to honor all U.S. veterans.

When Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act_ in 1968, it moved Veterans Day and three other Holidays to increase the number of long holiday weekends for federal employees. But Americans overwhelmingly objected to moving Veterans Day, so in 1978 the Day of Remembrance was restored to its proper place.

In those days the November 11th holiday had great public support, but today many communities want to de-emphasize Veterans Day. This displays great disrespect to the 23 million men and women, Americans who have served or are serving in uniform.

It is insulting to the point of being unpatriotic to show such disrespect. The cities asking the poorly funded veterans’ organizations to foot the bill for municipal services for Veterans Day parades have no shame. There should be no public institution open on this day, and private businesses forcing veterans to work on this day should suffer the wrath of the people. If these businesses and institutions cannot allow a full day of respect, perhaps they could at least allow a few hours for students and employees to attend the ceremonies.

This country owes much to our soldiers and seamen. They deserve a public that will stand for at least a few moments to honor their sacrifice and bravery. Many lost their lives, and many others placed themselves in harm’s way in service to this nation. They have earned our respect. We should take a few moments today to show them our appreciation.

My personal salute goes to five names engraved in black granite on the National Mall that may also found in my 1967 High School yearbook.

They are not forgotten.



Jess said...

Here in the UK it's known as Remembrance Day. It's not a holiday but at 11am many people will stop what they're doing and observe a two minute silence. Supermarkets, train stations etc will make an announcement to ask for silence.

Formal commemorations happen on the Sunday following the 11th with parades and wreath laying in London and local ceremonies all over the country.

If anything it's a day that is increasingly observed over the last few years.