Veteran’s Day 11/11/11
Veteran’s Day 11/11/11
November 11, 2011 — While Veteran’s Day is a day off school, Captain Mike Tillson urges us to treat it as much more than that. He talks about what Veteran’s Day means to him, in his own words, at a service symbolically held on 11/11/11 @ 11 am in Westchester County, New York.
By Captain Mike Tillson
Veteran’s Day was created in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson as Armistice Day in recognition of fallen veterans of the first World War. He recognized the first day of peace, November 11, 1919, after a war that cost millions of lives, to commemorate and honor those American patriots who died to make that peace.
After World War II and the Korean War, President Eisenhower renamed Armistice Day, orginally on June 1st, 1954, to Veteran’s Day to honor the sacrifices of all veterans.
During World War II, 11.5% of the population fought in the war. During Vietnam, 4.3% of the population fought. During the Globar War on Terrorism, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 0.45% served. These incredibly low percentages of the total population only echo the words of Sir Winston Churchill when he spoke of the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain in 1940 that, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
Two thirds of 1% of Americans are veterans, approximately 21.8 million of us. But they are not just numbers. They are patriots with their own lives, stories, and sacrifices all their own.
Veterans continue to serve our communities after they get out of the service. They enter civil service, run businesses, teach students, work in our factories, our farms, and elsewhere within our communities. Veterans never stop giving to their communities and to their — our — country.
Recognizing what veterans have done for us, I believe we still owe them more than what they have received. There are veterans across the country in dire situations. Approximately 107,000 veterans are homeless and an additional 1.5 million veterans are at risk of becoming homeless. They have experienced great hardships and lived through dangers that we could never imagine, including being wounded physically, emotionally, or both. We, as a society, need to play a more active role in taking care of our veterans after they have done so much for us. These veterans in need are usually not far away from us, often they are within our own community.
We should not look at today as just a day off work or the start of a three-day weekend, but rather we need to look at is as a day to thank veterans who have sacrificed for their country and for us. We also should not only think of veterans on federal holidays, but we must actively seek to take care of those who went overseas and risked their lives to take care of us.
While we would like to see an end to all wars, we must realize that how we treat our veterans influences how we defend our country in future wars. George Washington, the father of our country, and a veteran of not only the American Revolution but the French and Indian Wars as well, stated that, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, is directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated.”
Captain Mike Tillson served in Afghanistan from September 2009 – August 2010 with the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army. He is a recent graduate of United States Military Academy at West Point. His father and grandfather served as well.
His speech from a Veteran’s Day ceremony is reprinted on Here There Everywhere with his permission, with minor edits by Claudia Heitler. It may not be reprinted without renewed permission from Captain Tillson.