At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the United States takes time to recognize the bravery and sacrifice of the men and women who have served in the nation’s armed forces. On Nov. 11, United States citizens are asked to honor and recognize the sacrifices and work of all military veterans. This national holiday is distinctly different from Memorial Day, which celebrates those who have died while in service.
Veterans Day began as Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919, a year after an armistice — temporary cessation of hostilities — was signed between the Allied nations and Germany ending World War I. “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations …” President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed in 1919 when he made the day a holiday.
In May 1938, Armistice Day was made a legal holiday. In 1954, after World War II, Congress amended the act, changing the word Armistice with Veterans. “In order to ensure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans’ organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible,” said President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the nation’s first Veterans Day proclamation.
Take the time to thank a veteran for their service. It would mean the world to them. As the daughter of two veterans, I am acutely aware of the difficulties that face our veterans once their official service to the country ends.
My stepdad spent 21 years in the U.S. Army. His service — which included being on the front lines of the Gulf War — concluded in 2005, but he still suffers from the effects of a war that ended nearly 30 years ago. I’m thankful my dad has healthcare for his ailments and a roof over his head, but not all veterans are “so lucky” — a term I use lightly since he retired 100 percent disabled in the eyes of the military.
As with many aging demographics, military veterans are often underserved. Eight percent, approximately 1,400, of our island neighbors served in the military according to the Veterans Administration. Washington state had the second-highest number of homeless veterans in the nation in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — San Juan County had fewer than 10 homeless veterans. Find out more information about veteran homelessness and how you can help by visiting https://www.nchv.org/ and https://www.hfotusa.org/.
At 11:11 a.m. on Veterans Day, Washington State Ferries will observe two minutes of silence. Following the moment of silence, all operating vessels underway will sound their whistles to salute all former military personnel, including the many veterans who work for WSF or ride the boats each day. In addition, WSF will fly the POW/MIA flag on all operating vessels on Veterans Day, honoring those who were held as prisoners of war or were declared missing in action during their service.
“This will be our fifth consecutive year commemorating Veterans Day with a moment of silence and our whistle salutes,” said Amy Scarton, assistant secretary of WSF. “We want to continue this tradition of thanking and supporting veterans and service members who have sacrificed for our country. We are fortunate to call some of them our coworkers as they continue to provide protection and safety for their fellow Washingtonians every day.”
The U.S. Small Business Administration celebrated veterans, service members and military spouses during small business owners nationwide during National Veterans Small Business Week, which was Nov. 2-6.
“National Veterans Small Business Week is the perfect time to reflect on the accomplishments of our nation’s 2.5 million veteran-owned small businesses,” said SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza. “Now more than ever, it is our duty as an agency to empower these businesses as they adapt and pivot during this critical time. The SBA, in collaboration with our resource partner network, is proud to dedicate this week to honoring the veterans, service members and military spouses who continue to serve our great country as small business owners.”
The Veterans Advisory Fund, through the Veterans Advisory Board, provides timely services to eligible veterans and/or their immediate families who are in urgent financial need. To fill out an application for assistance, visit http://bit.ly/VAF111120.
Colleen Smith contributed to this story.