Veterans Day is one of those holidays, Columbus Day being another, that a lot of American workers don’t get. Literally and figuratively. They don’t get it. And that’s a loss both for them and for the veterans it honors. Why don’t they get it? Let us count the ways:
They don’t get the day off because their employer won’t let them. Banks are closed, as are many government offices and services. But for lots of people, it is just another day. Unless they work retail, in which case it is a very busy day.
A lot of people don’t get Veterans Day because they don’t get veterans. War is awful and the less said (or thought about it), the better. With the end of the draft, most American males didn’t have to do military service, and chose not to. In Congress, which was once filled with World War II, Korean and Vietnam war veterans, the number of vets could probably caucus in a large telephone booth (if you remember what they were like).
And while Iraq and Afghanistan are very much alive, hot wars, they are also increasingly remote to many people. Many, probably most, don’t have or maybe don’t even know anybody in those danger zones. Or maybe even know anybody in the military.
Veterans Day started out as Armistice Day, commemorating the time — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — when World War I, the war to end all wars, ended. If you are a little fuzzy about what all the fuss was about, try to get hold of Barbara Tuchman’s book, the Guns of August. President John F. Kennedy once said that every world leader should be required to read it at least once a year. You really can’t understand World War II until you read about how WWI, the war to end all wars, started. And finished.
After a while, Congress changed the name and moved Armistice Day to Veterans Day. As one of those Monday holidays that retailers (and people who get them) love. Finally, somebody figured out that this was one of those holidays (like July 4th) that really ought to be observed (to the extent it is) on the day in question.
So here we are.
If you are working, thanks. And welcome to the club. If you are off, get some rest, spend some money, and be nice to your family.