As Veteran’s Day 2020 is here let’s take a moment to reflect on what the day actually means. The name of course implies that November 11th is set aside to honor United States military Veterans, but to celebrate those is easy, but to understand the reasoning is a whole different thing, and figuring out what to do next with our thoughts may be something each of us needs to ponder more about.
Since it was first created as an official day, the name has been changed; it was initially “Armistice Day”. The date we observe Veterans Day has gone through a series of modifications before returning to the original date. Even the purpose of the day has somewhat changed. Just to set the record straight, we now honor all Veterans on November 11th, the anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which ended the World War I hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany. Armistice is Latin and translates “to stand (still) arms,” An armistice is a formal agreement by both sides to stop fighting until terms can be peacefully negotiated.
Some brief history for those that may not know: World War I was an intense four years of battle and countless lives lost, and it was clear to Germany throughout a series of battles in 1918, they were being defeated. With little strength or hope left, and rather than surrender, Germany asked allies to sign an Armistice. The date was November 11, 1918. It was the eleventh day of the eleventh month and at the eleventh hour when all nations had agreed to stop fighting while the terms could be determined. Composing the document required a bit of time. With The Treaty of Versailles formally ending the war, it was signed seven months following the armistice, on June 28, 1919, by Germany and the Allied Nations. The year was 1938, almost 20 years later, when the legislature dedicated November 11th “to the cause of world peace, to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day,’ ” honoring World War I Veterans. Of course since then, the date has meant more than honoring just World War I Veterans, but all those who have served. Perhaps one of the most important things to remember about Veteran’s Day is not only to celebrate and honor those who have put their lives on the line for our freedoms, but to remember how to keep an atrocity like WWI from ever happening again.
With more than 19 million military veterans living in the United States today, certainly everyone knows someone who has served. Finding a way that is meaningful to express gratitude for all they have given, isn’t at all difficult and can be expressed any day of the year.
Colin Wayne, a US Army Veteran who almost died by a rocket attack on his base while serving in Afghanistan, tells The Los Angeles Tribune, “To me, it’s a day to say thank you and celebrate those before us who chose to serve a purpose bigger than themselves. It’s a day to honor those that currently serve for sacrificing their own way of life for the way of life we Americans have cherished for centuries. It’s a day where Americans from all backgrounds and ideologies can come together united as one to celebrate those that defined the quintessential model of sacrifice.”
Retired US Navy SEAL, Sean Matson continues Wayne’s sentiments stating to us, “Coming from a family with generations of service to our great country it means the world to me. I remember growing up hearing stories from my great grandfather (Pop) that lived to be 100. He was a boilermate in the US Navy and even witnessed General Billy Mitchell who is coined as the father of the Air Force. Pop would tell us stories about him below deck looking through the windows seeing them testing the use of bombs on planes against battleships. My grandfather, my father served in the US Navy and my uncle was a rescue swimmer in the U.S. Coast Guard. 39 years ago, he was killed in a helicopter crash while training, so I never got to meet my Uncle Mark, but my middle name is after him and I grew up hearing a lot of amazing stories about him. Now being a Veteran myself, just has even more meaning to the day.”
And even those who didn’t serve directly, can still relate.
LA singer Greg Scott, who recently won on NBC’s competition series Songland and has released a song entitled “Warriors” that is dedicated to his Great Great Grandfather Adam Honodel who was General Ulyesses S. Grant’s bodyguard during the Civil War, spoke to us here at the Tribune saying, “The song is meant to empower and give strength to fight through anything put in front of you. Through all the battlefields my Great Great Grandfather fought on I can only imagine the courage and perseverance it took to survive that. Veteran’s Day is really a day to reflect, show honor and give thanks to those men and women that sacrificed their lives so we could live free.”
Los Angeles-based actor Michael Fishman, from ABC’s hit series The Conners, in which he plays a character named DJ who is a Veteran, and whose wife is currently deployed on the show, tells us as well, “Veterans day is a special day in our house. We celebrate my Dad and brother for their service. We often try to do something adventurous and a family dinner. I am honored and humbled to get to play a veteran. There are over 17 million veterans, each with their own story and I believe telling their story is extremely important. The show has hinted at sharing more of DJ’s service, and possibly PTSD. I long to highlight the challenges veterans experience upon returning home. A veteran’s service also impacts their family and friends. Playing a character with a spouse who is deployed is a very important storyline that so many families can relate to. The sacrifices, dignity, and honor shapes families around the world. I feel so strongly about these topics I have written another show I am pitching to networks just to focus on a military family and their storylines. I have tried to balance DJ’s innocence with a strength, honor, and devotion to the family befitting of a veteran. When we first returned I strived to highlight the inner struggle many of my friends who are veterans experienced transitioning back to civilian life.”
Across the United States on November 11th, celebrities and people in all walks of life and companies will honor these Veterans in multiple ways. From recognizing and showing appreciation to Veterans in your office or neighborhood, to holding a moment of silence, to assembling care packages to donate to Veteran organizations or providing a special discount at your place of work towards those who have served, there are many ways to recognize and show appreciation on this day.
Sean Matson’s company MATBOCK and Shop Decon, which is also Veteran-owned, will be donating products to a military focused non-profit called Troops Direct; They provide products to service members in critical times using donor money. And his company isn’t the only one giving back in some way. For over the past 12 years, Applebee’s restaurants nationwide have served free meals to Veterans and active duty military on Veterans Day to honor them for their courage and sacrifice and this year is no different. Chili’s Grill & Bar will once again be showing their gratitude with a free Veteran’s Day meal. Additionally, other restaurants across the country big and small, including ones like Yard House and Buffalo Wild Wings will be offering Veterans complimentary items.
Each year, actor Chris Pratt shares his love for his older brother Cully, who served in the Army and “taught me everything” – Chris, like he does each and every year for Veteran’s Day to lend his support, went on social media and proclaimed, “The more we can look at our veterans for who they are, actual people, with siblings and parents, with children and funny pasts – the more we can approach our relationships to them with compassion and understanding.”
But Veteran’s Day should not just stop on November 11th. We need to continue to honor those who were willing to die for the freedoms we have – just think about it, would you die for strangers around you right now?! And that is why it’s important to find ways to support our willing troops throughout the year. Whether it’s donating items, letting a Vet share their stories, or even hiring a Veteran, there are many ways to go about it.
There are currently more than 18.2 million Veterans in the U.S., making up almost 10% of the entire adult population. And believe it or not, statistics show that these Veterans thrive in the workforce because they bring their unique skills and leadership to nearly every industry and community in our country.
After retiring from the Army, Colin Wayne used his skills to start his own company Redline Steel in Alabama, even though he continues to give back to the Los Angeles community through his charitable contributions with organizations like Habitat for Humanity and The Midnight Mission. He tells the Tribune, “One of the big takeaways from serving that I’ve instilled in my business was and is having an attitude that reflects a “Never Quit” mentality. You learn to give it your all and never consider defeat when you first join the Military and it’s something that I’ve held onto as a business owner. I was medically discharged in 2012 and in 2016 when Redline Steel was founded, there were only a handful of employees and a couple plasma tables in a measly 5,000 sq. ft. facility. Since then, we’ve gone from 5,000 to 50,000 and currently a 110,000 sq. ft. facility with 80 full-time employees and 5 laser machines running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As we enter 2021, we’ll have eclipsed over 1.5 million orders in roughly 4 years since Redline Steel was founded.”
And Colin is just one success story. Others who have served in the military such as Robert J. Stevens (Lockheed Martin), Alex Gorsky (Johnson & Johnson), James A. Skinner (Walgreens) and Sumner Redstone (Viacom) have gone from putting their lives at risk, to creating fortunes with their companies upon returning to “civilian life”.
Richard Kinder, the billionaire businessman who is the co-founder and executive chairman of Kinder Morgan Inc., recently spoke to students in Los Angeles about the lessons he learned as a captain in the U.S. Army and how that has stayed with him throughout his civilian life.
“In Vietnam, we were staying in officers’ quarters, which were next to a field hospital. I was 24 years old and I saw these kids come in, many of them were 18 years old and six months earlier they had been in high school. Now they were severely injured, being carried on stretchers. They were following orders, serving their country. Yet, when they returned home, they were spit on, jeered at, and were not shown respect. There was opposition to the Vietnam War… Our service men and women from any war should never be disrespected. “ And since his own return home and progression into billions, he has kept that vow. Kinder Morgan has hired many veterans and is proud of the work they have done and continue to do. “They have led troops in battle, they know leadership and can see what needs to be done. And Kinder Morgan operates around the country. We need strong leaders.”
Sean Matson has also used what he learned while at war to become the success story he is today with his company. “Being a SEAL helped reinforce what I already believed in myself was that I can do anything that I put my mind to and that I need to keep moving forward. You see it everywhere on the internet like this person or business failed, but did they really?!? I never look at those situations as failures, these are times where I got more education. Sometimes, this education can be really expensive, sometimes it can cost you friends or even family members, but since you sought out to try it, it’s not a failure, it was a life lesson. [When you retire though] have multiple opportunities ready. Nothing usually happens exactly as you plan, which might mean you have to fallback to plan b or even c. Just like when planning your communication plan before a mission, use the PACE acronym. Primary, Alternative, Contingent and Emergency.”
Additionally, echoing Matson’s thoughts, former Navy SEAL Kevin Lacz, who served with popular “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, states, “You have to listen to your life experiences. Learn from them, embrace them, and prepare yourself for the next one. Military members are prepared for any task that comes their way.”
So, with Veteran’s Day here, look at yourself in the mirror and think about what you can do for a Veteran, whether it is a friend, stranger or even a family member.
Michael Fishman says it best: “Regardless of political affiliations, religious beliefs, of background, one area we all should be able to agree on is supporting our military service members. This Veteran’s Day, take a moment and check in on your family members who served. Or if you know of a military family in your area do something kind for them. It is time we show all our military members, past and present, that we see their sacrifices and appreciate their dedication to our safety and freedom.”
And to leave it off, actor Chris Evans, aka Captain America, just posted on his social media channels: “Thank you to all the brave, honorable, selfless men and women who have served and who are currently serving!”