Veterans Day: Living For Those Who Can't

Veterans Day: Living For Those Who Can't

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After serving 15 years as an Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan, Rocco Vargas struggled to build a civilian life at home. Now, through counseling and personal growth, he works each day on a new mission: to live for those who can't.

Veterans Day 2019: Facts, Why We Observe It and How It's Different From Memorial Day

Two holidays, Memorial Day and Veterans Day, are dedicated to the nation's service members, leading, at times, to confusion as to how they're different. While they're both focused on the military, one day is meant to thank living veterans and the other is intended to pay tribute to those who gave their lives for their country.

America's veterans, those who served in the military and weren't dishonorably discharged, as defined by the Department of Veterans Affairs, are thanked on the aptly named holiday Veterans Day. Included under the umbrella of the term "veteran" are those who served their country and passed away, although the holiday is predominately geared toward the living.

It occurs annually on November 11, six months after Memorial Day, which, as its name indicates, is intended to be a way of memorializing those who gave their lives serving America.

Originally called Armistice Day, the holiday commemorated the day the Allied forces and Germany put into effect an armistice on November 11, 1918, signaling an end to the fighting of World War I. It became an official holiday in 1938, according to the Department of Defense.

By 1954, Americans had served in World War II and the Korean War, causing veterans service organizations to urge Congress to change Armistice Day to Veterans Day. This way, service members from all wars would be honored and not just those who served in World War I.

Just as Veterans Day wasn't always called Veterans Day, it wasn't always commemorated on November 11. In the beginning, people celebrated veterans on November 11, but the passage of the Uniform Holiday Act in 1968 moved the holiday to Monday, regardless of the date. The goal was to create guaranteed three-day weekends, which, theoretically, would spur travel and family activities, therefore boosting the economy.

From October 25, 1971, until 1977, Veterans Day was celebrated on the fourth Monday of October. However, in 1975, President Gerald Ford signed a law and the holiday was returned to November 11 in 1978.

To celebrate Veterans Day, towns and cities will often have parades and businesses will offer discounts to service members and veterans. Unlike on Memorial Day, when it may be more appropriate to tell veterans to have a "meaningful day," according to NPR, on Veterans Day, it's entirely acceptable and encouraged to tell a veteran, "thank you for your service."

Another free way to acknowledge a veteran's service on Monday, as recommended by, is to ask them about their past. Instead of just thanking them for serving, inquire as to what their role in the military was and why they chose the branch they did. For some veterans, "thank you for your service," can come off as hollow due to its widespread use, so taking time to listen can show a deeper appreciation.

Also, if you're planning on making a card or sending someone a digital message for Veterans Day, be sure to spell it "Veterans Day." People sometimes refer to it as "Veteran's Day," but the proper spelling does not include an apostrophe.

Is Veterans Day on the same day every year?

When first celebrated as Armistice Day, the day marked the end of World War I, formally recognized on the “11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month” in 1918.

Today we continue to celebrate the day as Veterans Day, still recognizing the original tie with November 11. That means Veterans Day is on the same day every year -- November 11 -- regardless of on which day of the week it falls. When the date falls on a Saturday or Sunday, government officials or businesses may recognize it on both the official day and the following Monday.

The difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day

Memorial Day and Veterans Day are both patriotic holidays honoring the military, but there is a significant difference between the two aside from when they land on the calendar.

Memorial Day, which falls on the last Monday in May, honors the men and women who died while serving in the military. This solemn occasion is a time to reflect on these American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting and defending the country they deeply loved. Veterans Day, observed every November 11, recognizes all who have served in the Armed Forces.

You may wonder: What is the proper way to acknowledge each holiday? On Memorial Day you can honor the fallen by attending memorial services within your community or laying flowers and planting flags on graves at your local Veterans cemetery. Veterans Day is an opportunity to do the same, but it is also an appropriate time to show your appreciation to Veteran friends and family. You can also recognize Veterans Day by flying the American flag outside your home, visiting or volunteering at a Veteran facility, attending a local event, and, of course, thanking Veterans and their families for their service.

You do not have to wait for a national holiday to show your gratitude to Service members. Any day is a good day to support Veterans either through a charity or giving a heartfelt “thank you” to those who served.

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Teresa Verity – Blog Author & Marketing Associate at Homes For Our Troops

/>Teresa Verity is a marketing associate at Homes For Our Troops. Before joining the team in 2013, she was a reporter for several community publications in New England. She holds degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She can be reached at [email protected] .

Veterans 'Uncomfortable' With 'Thank You for Your Service,' Ask for More Civilian Support This Veterans Day

Almost half of U.S. veterans and active service members feel uncomfortable with being thanked for their service, a new survey has revealed.

According to a poll commissioned by the Cohen Veterans Network (CVN), a national not-for-profit network of mental health clinics for post-9/11 veterans and military families, 49 percent of active and former members of the armed services feel uneasy with the expression "Thank you for your service."

It comes as 91 percent of Americans used the expression, according to the survey, and as the country prepares to commemorate its former military service members on Monday for Veterans Day.

"I feel very uncomfortable when civilians say thank you for your service, because I don't know what to say back," said a veteran employed at a Cohen Clinic in Washington.

The poll found that instead of saying the simple thank you, most veterans and service members preferred gratitude that went beyond simple platitudes and that tried to connect with them on a more personal level.

Commenting on the survey, Dave Gowel, CEO of RallyPoint Networks, a digital platform for the military community, said: "What we've learned is if you've met one veteran, you've met one veteran. We are as diverse in our interests as are civilians. When it comes to being thanked for our service, this diversity still applies and you can't make everyone happy.

"We challenge you to show appreciation in additional ways for those who have repeatedly stepped in harm's way on your behalf think about why you are saying thanks and realize you need to do more than check the block with a simple phrase."

The survey revealed that veterans preferred questions about when they served, where were they stationed and what specific jobs they did while serving.

Its results were released alongside a new initiative launched by CVN titled "Beyond Thank You for Your Service," an awareness campaign aimed at connecting veterans and civilians in more meaningful ways.

"Taking an interest in a veteran's story about their time in the military is one way to engage beyond just saying thank you for your service," CVN CEO and president Dr. Anthony Hassan said.

Some former service members said it would be more meaningful if people did more for the veteran community as opposed to simply saying thanks.

"Instead of hearing 'thank you for your service,' I would like to see civilians in our community give back to military families," a veteran from Tennessee said. "Either by coaching a sport, giving a class, or going to a veterans home and just sitting and listening to the stories of our older generations."

According to CVN: "The CVN Veterans Day Survey 2019 was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Cohen Veterans Network from October 10-14, 2019 among 2,019 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 218 are U.S. military veterans or active-duty service members. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated."

The graphic below, provided by Statista, shows that in 2018 the number of veterans aged 65 or above living with an income below the poverty level was 494,000. For the 55 to 64 age group, 304,000 veterans live with an income below poverty level. For 35 to 54, it is 252,000 living with an income below poverty level.

1. A Prayer for those Who Have Lost Loved Ones in Service

For those who have lost loved ones because of war, prayer can bring healing to the family members who remain. Since 2006, over 16,000 U.S. soldiers have died while in active duty. That's over 16,000 families and loved ones still missing their son or daughter wife or husband brother or sister.

Heavenly Father who sees all of the hurt, comfort the hearts of those who have lost loved ones in the military. It might seem to us unfair, but You are the God who ordains our days. Let us remember those families are still grieving today. Remind them of Your love for them. Their loss provides for us a safe place to live and worship You. Keep those families close to Your heart today. Comfort them and let them know we do not forget their loved one’s sacrifice. Amen.

Is Veterans Day on the same day every year?

When first celebrated as Armistice Day, the day marked the end of World War I, formally recognized on the “11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month” in 1918.

Today we continue to celebrate the day as Veterans Day, still recognizing the original tie with November 11. That means Veterans Day is on the same day every year -- November 11 -- regardless of on which day of the week it falls. When the date falls on a Saturday or Sunday, government officials or businesses may recognize it on both the official day and the following Monday.

Veterans Day: Living For Those Who Can't - HISTORY

In November of 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November Eleventh as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "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. "

Let's all take a moment on this Veteran's Day to honor those ordinary people who have done something extraordinary so that we may all enjoy the freedom we treasure today.

Here is a collection of inspirational Veterans Day quotes to support you in your time of reflection.

1. "Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul." -- Michel de Montaigne

2. "Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys. Look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death!"
--Sun Tzu

3. "Without heroes, we are all plain people, and don't know how far we can go."
-- Bernard Malamud

4. "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with lots of 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." -- Woodrow Wilson

5. "In order to insure 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." -- Dwight D. Eisenhower

6. "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." -- John F. Kennedy

7. "War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's children." -- Jimmy Carter

8. "On this Veterans Day, let us remember the service of our veterans, and let us renew our national promise to fulfill our sacred obligations to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much so that we can live free." -- Dan Lipinski

9. "My heroes are those who risk their lives every day to protect our world and make it a better place--police, firefighters, and members of our armed forces." -- Sidney Sheldon

10. "We remember those who were called upon to give all a person can give, and we remember those who were prepared to make that sacrifice if it were demanded of them in the line of duty, though it never was. Most of all, we remember the devotion and gallantry with which all of them ennobled their nation as they became champions of a noble cause." -- Ronald Reagan

11. "The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." -- Abraham Lincoln

12. "Better than honor and glory, and History's iron pen, Was the thought of duty done and the love of his fellow-men." -- Richard Watson Gilder

13. "We will not tire, We will not falter, We will not fail." -- George W. Bush

14. "Our veterans accepted the responsibility to defend America and uphold our values when duty called." --Bill Shuster"

15. "How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!" -- Maya Angelou

16. "The willingness of America's veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude." -- Jeff Miller

17. "In war, there are no unwounded soldiers." -- José Narosky

18. "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation." -- President George Washington

19. "Well, look at what people are doing for returned veterans now. The wounded warriors. They're working hard to make the wounded veterans feel that they are loved and welcomed home, unlike Vietnam. It was not a very kind, gentle world then. I think we are kinder and gentler." -- Barbara Bush

20. "The hero is the man dedicated to the creation and / or defense of reality-conforming, life-promoting values." -- Andrew Bernstein

21. "It's about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It's about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they've earned when they come home. It's about serving all of you as well as you've served the United States of America."
-- Barack Obama

Don't Say 'Thank You For Your Service' This Monday

A soldier in the Old Guard places flags at graves in Arlington National Cemetery in preparation for Memorial Day, on May 29.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

"I hope you're having a meaningful day."

That might be one of the better things to say to a veteran this Monday. You should probably avoid the common refrain, "Thank you for your service," according to someone who should know.

"On Memorial Day, the veteran you're talking to may be going through a bit of melancholy remembering people who died over the years," says Navy veteran Luke Visconti, who also co-founded the website DiversityInc, which wrote about the subject recently.

As most people are aware (or should be), Memorial Day and Veterans Day serve different purposes.

Veterans Day is to honor the service of people who have worn the uniforms of the armed forces.

Memorial Day is intended to remember those who died while serving.

Visconti encourages those who want to say supportive words to a veteran to recognize "that the person may have friends who died in combat."

As far as saying thank you goes, "I don't need to be thanked for my service," he tells NPR's Michel Martin. "I think it's become kind of a platitude, toss-away thing to say."

Memorial Day and Veterans Day have separate origins going back to two different wars: the Civil War and World War I.

Shortly after the Civil War, Memorial Day began as Decoration Day. "The reason for that is because it was a day on which Americans, South and in the North, would decorate the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War," history professor Matthew Dennis told NPR in 2005. It was a "vernacular, grassroots kind of expression of mourning."

Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, who headed a group for Union veterans, declared in 1868 that Decoration Day would be observed on May 30. According to a Memorial Day history from the Department of Veterans Affairs, after World War I the holiday was broadened to include service members who died in all of the country's wars, not just the Civil War.

Multiple cities claim to be the birthplace of the holiday, but President Lyndon Johnson formally gave the honor to Waterloo, N.Y., in 1966. An act of Congress in 1971 switched the observance to the last Monday in May, the VA notes.

Veterans Day, on the other hand, was originally called Armistice Day, which commemorated the end of fighting in World War I — you may have heard before that it happened on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918.

President Woodrow Wilson celebrated the first Armistice Day in 1919. In 1938, November 11 became a legal holiday by an act of Congress, and in 1954 it was changed from "Armistice" to "Veterans" Day, in order to honor all veterans.

So save the thanks for Veterans Day, if you must. "I think sometimes maybe just a pat on the back or an arm around the shoulder is really better than words," Visconti says. "So just be a friend."

NPR radio producer Dustin DeSoto and editor Jennifer Liberto contributed to this report.

Memorial Day: What It Means, Why It's Not 'Veterans Day' and How to Approach Your Veterans

This common misconception, that Memorial Day is a time to thank veterans, is not in fact what the holiday is intended for.

“Memorial Day is essentially the one day that we should remember all veterans that are no longer with us, whether that is from combat, everyday accidents or just the natural course of life with people dying of old age,” said Chris Wilson, VP of major accounts at DiversityInc. “You ‘memorialize’ those that decided to sign a contract to be a part of something that would help the American people by joining the American military.”

For many Americans, Memorial Day is “the unofficial start of summer,” a day off of work and the perfect day for a barbecue. But for some veterans, Chris explained, Memorial Day could in fact be a very difficult day. Rather than being a day to thank living veterans for their service, Memorial Day is a day to remember veterans who are no long with us, whether they died in combat or not.

Chris served active duty in the United States Marine Corps from 2007 to 2012 as an Infantry Officer, serving deployments to Afghanistan in 2009 and 2011. He did lose friends in combat. And for veterans, Memorial Day could be similar to the first holiday you celebrate after losing a loved one.

“We often hear that when people pass, the first ‘holiday’ season is very hard because they are not at the dinner table or opening presents,” Chris said. “The first couple of Memorial Days out of active duty service can be the same.”

This is not to say that all veterans will have a difficult day. Some veterans will be fine that weekend, perhaps if they were not traumatized by combat or did not experience death firsthand.

But for others, Memorial Day could bring a flood of painful memories.

“Companies need to recognize that other veterans may have memories of combat, almost dying, buddies dying, killing people, and so many other things can erupt during this weekend of emotions,” Chris said.

For some years, Memorial Day was more difficult than others, Chris recalled. 2014 was particularly difficult. That was one of the years Chris decided to visit Arlington National Cemetery, where Marines who Chris lost during combat are buried.

“I made the trip to Arlington over Memorial Day but at this point I had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. So my emotions were taking over how I could act around others,” Chris said. “The day before I went to Arlington, my father-in-law asked me if I was going to see the families. A wave of emotion hit me, and I couldn’t talk, but only cry. Then on the trip down there, I had an anxiety attack.”

That year, Chris sought therapy for his PTSD &mdash a decision that made a world of a difference.

“Memorial Day in 2015 and those afterward have been totally fine &mdash only because I went to therapy,” Chris said.

Rather than approaching your veterans and saying, “Thank you for your service,” “Is this a difficult weekend for you” or “How many friends did you lose on your deployments” Chris suggests saying something along the lines of:

“Enjoy your weekend, but I want you to know that I will be remembering what this holiday is about.”

“Enjoy your weekend, and I will be thinking about those that are no longer with us.”

“I will be taking a moment this weekend to honor those that served our nation and are no longer with us.”

If you are or know of a loved one who is struggling during this time or any other time, now is when to seek help.

“My door is always open for anyone that wants to talk about my experiences and how I was able to become 100% healthy from my PTSD. I want our client base to understand.” &mdash Chris Wilson

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