5 Things Everyone Should Know About Veterans Day + a Personal Story
Veterans Day is on November 11. Yes, everyone knows this. But what does Veterans Day really mean? Unfortunately, many people do not know. Or at most, they have a casual awareness — but not a true understanding.
I believe that every American, regardless of whether they are living here in the U.S. or abroad, should view Veterans Day as one of our most important and time-honored national holidays. To that end, here are 5 things about Veterans Day that I feel everyone should know:
1. Veterans Day is NOT the same thing as Memorial Day
Memorial Day, which is observed on the last Monday in May, is a day to remember those who gave their lives in service to our country. The holiday has roots dating back to the post-Civil War era when citizens would place spring flower memorials on the graves of fallen soldiers.
Veterans Day honors the more than 19 million men and women who have served, or are serving, in the U.S. military during wartime and peacetime. It was first observed on November 11, 1919 (and known then as “Armistice Day”) in honor of the first anniversary of the end of World War I, which officially ended on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1918.
Why is understanding the distinction between Veterans Day and Memorial Day necessary? Because while I believe that it is important to regularly thank men and women who served or are serving, on Veterans Day it is ESPECIALLY necessary.
2. The Public Can Attend Veterans Day Ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery
During the Veterans Day commemoration at Arlington National Cemetery, guards lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and Veterans organizations hold a parade of colors. The ceremony is free and open to the public. If you plan on attending, it is recommended that you arrive at least an hour early. Try and take your kids as well. Depending on their age, it may be many years before they fully understand Veterans Day and all that it stands for. That is fine. They will thank you later in life — and
hopefully, do the same for their children.
3. It is Veterans Day, not Veteran’s Day
As noted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, adding an apostrophe — which is something many people do — implies that the holiday “belongs” to Veterans. This is incorrect. Veterans Day is a day for all of us to honor and thank Veterans (and therefore no apostrophe is needed).
And while we are on the topic of grammar: some of you will surely have noticed that I always capitalize the “V” in Veterans, even though technically it should be a lower-case v (unless the word Veteran is at the beginning of a sentence, or is referring especially to Veterans Day).
Well, I made the decision many years ago to always use a capital V whenever I use the word Veteran. I feel that it adds a measure of respect that our Veterans have earned and deserve.
4. You Can Thank a Veteran in Many Ways
Many people are thankful to our Veterans, but they do not go out of their way to demonstrate their gratitude. I don’t necessarily think that this is due to a lack of patriotism, but instead a lack of information. That is, many people just don’t know what to do. Let’s fix that!
According to Military.com, here are some great ways to thank a Veteran:
- Volunteer at a Veterans organization. If you are in Greensboro, you can contact the Greensboro Vet Center and inquire about ways that you can help.
- Buy a meal for a homeless Veteran. Across the country, there are more than 67,000 homeless Veterans, and studies show that our Veteran population is 2x more likely to become chronically homeless than other groups.
- Proudly fly our flag at your home. What you may discover is that very shortly after you do this, many of your neighbors follow suit. While there are many places to buy a flag, I urge you to support businesses that clearly state that they manufacture all of their flags in the U.S., such as AmericanFlags.com.
- Simply and from your heart say THANK YOU to a Veteran. It only takes a second, yet the impact can last for much longer — maybe even a lifetime.’
- Ask a friend or family member for stories about their time in service (I have a personal story about this that I will share at the end of the article!).
5. We Should Observe 2 Minutes of Silence at 2:11 pm EST
Per the Veterans Day Moment of Silence Act, at 2:11 pm EST on Veterans Day, we should observe two minutes of silence. During this period, I urge you not to dwell on any problems or plans that you have. Instead, reflect on the service and sacrifice that Veterans — past and present — have made, so that we can enjoy so many freedoms.
A Personal Story
Earlier, I mentioned that I had a personal story to share for Veterans Day. It is not about me, but about my uncle on my dad’s side, Lee Roy Smith.
Unfortunately, I never had an opportunity to know uncle Lee Roy, but for most of my life, I heard great stories of him as a Private during World War II — including one that will stay with me forever. I would like to share it with all of you:
Pvt. Lee Roy Smith
On November 25, 1944, Private Smith’s platoon was attacked by six German
“tiger” tanks — two of which were coming directly towards his foxhole. Rather than fleeing, Private Smith remained undaunted and began firing repeatedly at the enemy infantry — literally putting his life on the line.
When one of the tanks was knocked out by U.S. destroyers, a member of the German infantry advanced and began throwing grenades at the platoon. Private Smith saw this and killed the grenadier. This act SAVED MANY LIVES.
Tragically, however, Private Smith was mortally wounded by fire from one of the tanks. He died instantly. As a result of his incredible courage, valor, and disregard for his personal safety in carrying out his mission and protecting his platoon, Private Smith was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
Silver Star Awarded to Pvt. Lee Roy Smith
As I said, I never had the opportunity to meet Uncle Lee Roy. But I am grateful and proud of his legacy. On Veterans Day, I will be reflecting on what he, and so many other brave men and women, have done for our country. We owe them a debt that must be honored and respected — not just once a year, but every day.