Veterans Day not just a three-day weekend


Writing editorials about the significance of Veterans Day is always a challenge because it is, if we can still use that phrase, preaching to the choir.

People who read newspaper editorials generally know what Veterans Day is, and people who don't know what Veterans Day is are unlikely to read newspaper editorials.

But it seems clear with each passing year that fewer people know much about Veterans Day or anything else having to do with history and civics.

We've all seen the surveys and the funny (actually sad) TV clips of people showing their ignorance of history and civics.

Case in point: Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, is on trial for corruption. On the first day of deliberations, a juror asked the judge: "What's a senator?"

Many of us would be dumbfounded by such a question, wondering how any person could live in this country, go through our school system and just go about daily life without knowing what a senator is.

Somehow, many people do.

In other words, we can't assume students are being taught anything. We can't assume they know why we pause to honor our nation's veterans every Nov. 11.

We can't assume they know it's something more than a day off from school and a chance to get a deal on a new mattress.

Perhaps it is up to us, those who read newspapers and understand history, to spread the word to the less, shall we say, informed.

Facebook and Twitter are wastelands of useless trivia and the most astonishingly illogical and partisan argument. It is tempting to abandon them both and read a book.

Instead, perhaps if thinking people posted a little primer on Veterans Day and listed locations of local ceremonies and contact information for charities helping veterans in need, the word might spread to those whose acquisition of knowledge rarely extends beyond the social media swamp.

Bring it up in conversation with the younger folk, not just this time of year but at other times. Ask if they know about Armistice Day and the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the end of World War I.

See if they know that Armistice Day was originally to honor all who served in World War I, but the name was changed in 1954 to honor all who served in all of our wars because by that time two more major conflicts had been fought (World War II and Korea).

See if they know the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day; that Veterans Day honors all veterans, and Memorial Day honors specifically those who have died.

If they don't know, explain it. And explain how, while the politicians may have gotten us into some wars that were less necessary to the preservation of our democracy than others, the service members always answered the call and fought with honor.

And for that we should all be grateful.


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