Grand Strand residents of all ages widely recognize and respect service in the U.S. armed forces and that’s as it should be every day and especially on the Nov. 11 holiday that started 95 years ago.
In grocery stores and on the street today, veterans wearing hats with military emblems often hear, “Thank you for your service,” from men, women and children. At Myrtle Beach International Airport, Operation Welcome Home officially greets military men and women returning from assignments. Older veterans of World War II and Korea have been overwhelmed by the reception as their Honor Flight returned from a one-day visit to Washington.
Veterans of Vietnam have remarked how differently they are treated in their 60s compared to what they experience on their return, when members of the military were shamefully treated. Granted, this is now long in the past, but the terrible behavior of people who had not served toward those who had answered the call is part of the story. Perhaps the attitude today is related to a sense of guilt over behavior years ago when returning veterans changed into civilian clothing as quickly as possible to avoid being spit upon.
Many Americans, particularly those born after the mid-1950s, have no personal recollection of Vietnam or Korea … certainly not World War II. They have not faced the prospect of being drafted into military service. One of the dividends of Veterans Day is to be a learning experience for younger citizens, making them aware of the sacrifices made by granddad or Uncle Charley when they served back in the day.
The holiday on Tuesday has been Veterans Day for 60 years. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who as an Army general had commanded Allied forces in Europe, signed the first Veterans Day proclamation in 1954. Until then, Nov. 11 was Armistice Day, proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 to mark the cessation of hostilities in “The Great War” on Nov. 11, 1918. It was to be “the war to end all wars.”
Wilson’s proclamation alluded to great hope for the future. “ … 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 … .”
The opportunity was lost. Wilson’s League of Nations plan failed as the United States turned increasingly inward and began two decades of isolationism that ended only when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor forced the nation into World War II.
The Treaty of Versailles, signed in June 1919, imposed impossible penalities on Germany. America’s isolationism and the demands of the Treaty of Versailles were among the factors that led to the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s.
Let’s all promote recognition of service in the military, whatever branch, whenever the years. “Thank you for your service” is a good thing to say as well as to hear. And doing what we can to help the many non-profits that help returning vets further demonstrates our gratitude.