Editor’s note: Chuck Norris’ weekly political column debuts each Monday in WND and is then syndicated by Creators News Service for publication elsewhere. His column in WND often runs hundreds of words longer than the subsequent release to other media.
With Veterans Day being Nov. 11, patriots everywhere feel a sense of pride as we again honor all who have served our country. But can you pass my Veterans Day test?
Do you know these facts about Veterans Day?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 surveys:
- There are 19.6 million veterans in the U.S.
- There are 9.3 million U.S. veterans over the age of 65.
- There are 1.6 million younger than 35.
- There are 1.6 million female veterans.
- There are 39,890 veterans still alive who served during three wartime periods: World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
- There are 3.6 million veterans with a service-connected disability rating.
Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. (“Armistice” is an agreement by opposing forces to stop fighting war.)
In 1926, Congress passed a resolution to make Nov. 11 an annual observance.
In 1938, Nov. 11 became a national holiday.
In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation that changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor those who served in all American wars.
It’s interesting to note that, in 1968, Congress changed Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October so that federal employees would have another three-day weekend. But in 1975, President Gerald Ford changed the date back to Nov. 11 because of its initial importance.
A common misunderstanding about Veterans Day is how it is confused with Memorial Day. That is why it is important for citizens to realize Veterans Day falls on Nov. 11 and honors living servicemen, while Memorial Day is commemorated on the fourth Monday in May and honors those who have died in service of our country or resulting from injuries thereof.
As far as caring for living veterans, History.com highlights a few noteworthy facts: “The VA health care system had 54 hospitals in 1930, since then it has expanded to include 171 medical centers; more than 350 outpatient, community, and outreach clinics; 126 nursing home care units; and 35 live-in care facilities for injured or disabled vets.”
A 1946 Gallup poll revealed that most veterans – World War I (75 percent) and World War II (69 percent) – believed the U.S. government had given them sufficient help. What’s interesting is that World War I non-injured combat vets were given “little more than a $60 allowance and a train ticket home,” according to the Veteran’s Administration. With the GI Bill becoming law in 1944, however, additional benefits for vets including education, job training, unemployment compensation and guaranteed home and business loans.
My father fought in World War II at the Battle of the Bulge. I served four years in the Air Force in South Korea, and my brother Aaron served in the Army on the Korean demilitarized zone. Our brother, Wieland, was killed in action in Vietnam when he walked point alone and drew out enemy fire so that others in his platoon could fight their way out to freedom. Many souls were saved on that day because of my brother’s bravery. (My mom wrote a chapter on each of us and our military service – and for the first time tells Wieland’s war story at length – in her new autobiography, “Acts of Kindness: My Story,” available only at ChuckNorris.com.)
Honoring vets on Veterans Day isn’t about knowledge but homage. It isn’t about looking at your neighbor’s stars and stripes, but posting Old Glory with pride on your own home. It isn’t about merely saluting from afar those who served, but shaking the hands of those who valiantly sacrifice their time and lives for our republic.
I agree with President John F. Kennedy, who said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
You want to pass my Veterans Day test? Then educate others about veterans. As often as they are before you, shake the hands of those who are serving or have served our country as you say, “Thanks for your service.”
On behalf of millions of Americans, my wife, Gena, and I salute all who serve and have served our great country and the cause of freedom. We pray daily for those who continue to put themselves in harm’s way and humbly bow our heads in thanks for our fallen heroes who have given their lives that we might live ours.