Today is Veterans Day, a day set aside each year to thank and honor veterans for their service and sacrifice.
That reason was first expressed by President Woodrow Wilson when he proclaimed the first of what was called Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with lots of 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.”
Wilson was marking the first anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. The day was meant to celebrate peace, and to honor WWI veterans. Congress made it a legal holiday in 1938. Over the years, the honoring of all veterans was included, and Congress changed the holiday’s name to Veterans Day in 1954.
On the central Kenai Peninsula, area organizations are hosting a Veterans Day celebration at 11 a.m. at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
One day isn’t enough. Our support and appreciation for our veterans needs to extend beyond today’s observances. Issues affecting veterans frequently have been in the news of late, from issues obtaining timely health care and treatment at Veterans Administration medical facilities to the “22 pushup challenge” raising awareness of the number of veterans who commit suicide each day.
We as a country must do a better job of addressing the needs of the men and women who sacrificed so much for the rest of us. We need to do more to ensure that when the headlines fade, the social media campaign runs its course and Nov. 11 comes and goes, our awareness of those needs and will to do something about it doesn’t fade with them.
You don’t necessarily need to do pushups to help. Be willing to support local veterans organizations, which provide tremendous support for and advocacy on behalf of veterans. With the knowledge that Alaska has one of the highest numbers of veterans per capita in the country, be aware that veterans issues impact our whole community. We all know someone who is a veteran, and we likely know quite a few more and don’t even realize it. When you vote, make veterans issues part of your consideration of candidates — whether you served in the armed forces or not.
With many Americans — including many from the Kenai Peninsula — currently serving in harm’s way, and with our area home to many more veterans, let’s use today’s observances as a reminder not just to think of our nation’s veterans today, but to give thanks for their service and sacrifice — as well as all those who have sacrificed to support them on the homefront — every day.