November 11th. Veterans Day.
Though many people believe that Memorial Day and Veterans Day are observed for the same reason, there is a subtle yet important distinction between the two.
While both holidays honor military personnel, Memorial Day pays tribute to the brave men and women who died while serving our nation in war. Veterans Day, on the other hand, honors the men and women – both living and dead – who have served in the armed forces at any time – during peace or war.
But honor them how? And honor them for what?
As to these questions, we lack a clear national answer. I believe that the demographic and socioeconomic division between the less than 1 percent that serve and the more than 99 percent that enjoy the benefits that are protected by those who serve is, in large part, to blame for the lack of a clear understanding of the purpose, and, in turn, proper celebration, of this important federal holiday.
To be clear, I am among the 99 percent. However, my father and two brothers are among the 1 percent. My father, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, passed away last December. His birthday was November 11th. Perhaps this is why I’ve taken more time this year to pause and consider how I can better honor his legacy and service, and I challenge each of you to do the same.
The lack of conscription (the draft ended in December 1972) and the deep military-civilian divide within our population (not only do the 99 percent not serve, many do not personally know anyone who does) means, among other things, that the many must make a conscious effort to even begin to understand the unique and remarkable service of and sacrifice made by the few.
After all, we are not the ones standing guard, pursuing our country’s enemies and looking danger and adversity square in the eye, without blinking or backing down, to fulfill a sworn duty to protect others and the sacred American way of life. No, that job description belongs to our veterans. And that is heroic service.
So today, on Veterans Day, let us, the 99 percent, properly honor the service of our country’s heroes, those courageous men and women that have willingly and knowingly accepted not only the possible loss of life and limb but also the soul-changing burden of taking up arms and possibly taking the life of another so that we can continue to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
This is our call to action.
Editor’s note: Burt Hicks is Manager of Corporate Responsibility at Simmons First National Corporation. Burt’s father, Jimmy, was a veteran of the Vietnam War (U.S. Army) and received the Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medals for his distinguished service. Burt’s older brother, Eric, is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served 5 years in the U.S. Navy. Burt’s younger brother, Jacob, a Sergeant in the U.S. Army, has served two tours in Afghanistan and is currently stationed in Ansbach, Germany.