Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veterans Day History and Support

By Craig Reck

Day of Remembrance
Across the country, November 11 is the day for citizens to honor those veterans who have fought for the United States. This somber occasion is meant for reflection and appreciation, but veterans did not always have their own holiday.

The First Veterans Day
One year after the end of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson inaugurated the first Veterans Day. Then known as Armistice Day, the observance was meant to honor all veterans who served their country in "The Great War."

This federal holiday is very time specific. Initial observance begins at the eleventh hour of the eleventh month of the year. This time, according to Congress, "marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals."

A veteran himself, President Dwight D. Eisenhower later changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. The belief was that "Armistice" was too specific to WWI and "Veteran" would include those recently returned soldiers from World War II like President Eisenhower.

Support for Veterans in 2009
This year's Veteran's Day seemed a little more somber after the recent tragedy at Fort Hood. As Nelsonville VFW Post Commander Mike Jonas said, "it strikes a different tone, there's a lot of sorrow...that was a real shock to all of us."

Like his predecessors, President Obama walked among the graves at Arlington Cemetery on November 11. More importantly, the president signed an executive order urging the employment of veterans by federal offices days before.

The President is not alone in his support of veterans. His Secretary of Veteran Affairs, Eric Shineski, has rallied for veterans' benefits since his appointment nine months ago. A veteran himself, Shineski has expanded coverage for veterans disabled from Agent Orange. He's now pushing for an increased budget for his department and a solution to the more than 130,000 homeless veterans.

Community Involvement
Shineski expects it will take five years to accomplish his goals. In that time, communities can assist their local veterans. There are some national volunteer organizations, but those looking for a more personal effort can simply contact their local VFW or American Legion Post. There are six VFWand two American Legion Posts within 20 miles of the city of Athens.

For volunteer ideas, check out the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

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