November 11th is designated as Veterans Day, a federal holiday to honor the 19.6 million men and women who have served in the military. (Memorial Day, celebrated at the end of May, honors service members who have died in military service to the country.)
Originally called Armistice Day, Veterans Day was first observed on November 11, 1919, in honor of the first anniversary of the end of World War I, which officially ended on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” in 1918. In 1926, Congress called for an annual observance of the anniversary and by 1938 it was an official federal holiday. In 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to recognize veterans from all wars and conflicts.
A 1968 law moved the observance of the holiday to the fourth Monday in October, but that was unpopular, and in 1975, President Gerald Ford signed a law moving it back to Nov. 11. The law took effect in 1978.
The holiday carries global significance: several countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, continue to celebrate a version of this holiday every November. But what does that celebration look like during a pandemic?
In years past, our community has thanked those who have served or are serving through in-person activities: visits by veterans to schools and nursing homes; celebrations at the local American Legion Hall on Pearl Street. This year, none of those things will happen, so it’s especially important that we make an effort to reach out safely to show military members gratitude for their sacrifice. Beyond simply saying “thank you for your service,” here are some ideas:
- Observe the silent formation of American Legion Post 30 at the War Memorial on the Camden Village Green from 11:30 til noon on Wednesday. Don’t forget your mask.
- Ask a neighbor or family member who is a veteran about his or her time in the military.
- Write a letter to a soldier abroad using Operation Gratitude.
- Fly the Stars and Stripes at your home. Contrary to what some might suggest, our flag is not a partisan prop, but a proud symbol of our country.
- Donate to a military cause, such as Operation Comfort Warriors, a fund providing items to wounded service members to aid in their recovery.
- Read a book or watch a movie about U.S. Military history. We Were Soldiers (2002), Glory (1989), and Saving Private Ryan (1998) are a few; Arundel, by Maine’s Kenneth Roberts, is a classic historical novel about a Maine town and Benedict Arnold’s march to Quebec during the American Revolution.
Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, represents Camden, Islesboro and Rockport in the Maine Legislature.