There are very few people alive who remember the first Veterans Day — or Armistice Day as it was previously known — a celebration of the end of World War I. The Great War. The War To End All Wars. The war that has been consigned to history and is now nothing more than a hot topic for fiction writers and filmmakers or a popular subject for grade school teachers to explore with their students. For younger generations, Armistice Day and the global impact of WWI may seem about as relevant as the French Revolution or the Boer War: it was something long ago and far away.
Yet, Armistice Day, and now Veterans Day, remain hugely significant.
The War To End All Wars was followed by a century of conflict — our troops have fought and died in WWII, in Korea, in Vietnam and in the Middle East. Today, we continue to maintain a strong military presence in many of these war zones of yesterday. In Vietnam, a conflict I experienced, over 50,000 heroes lost their lives.
Since that first Armistice Day on November 11, 1918 we’ve been at war more often than we’ve been at peace. And the cost of life has been huge.
How can we justify sending parents, children, brothers, sisters to die on foreign soil? It’s about belief; the conviction that our way of life, and our freedoms are worth fighting for. The freedom to speak out when we disagree, the freedom of our press, the freedom to choose our religion without fear of persecution.
The freedom to preserve everything that makes our country so great.
Belief and commitment always comes at a price. Whether you’re pushing for change for the greater good or fighting to preserve a valuable status quo, doing the right thing takes courage and it takes sacrifice. Our heroes in the military have sacrificed so much to protect us and the way of life we treasure, it’s only right that we take at least one day out of the year to show our respect for their actions and sacrifice.
Honoring our veterans.
How can we best honor our veterans, and show them and their loved ones their sacrifice had meaning? Of course we can celebrate Veterans Day by giving a donation to a worthy veteran non-profit and we can offer a simple handshake to thank them for their service. We can hire veterans to work in our businesses, and give them a chance to employ the incredible skills they’ve gleaned from their years of service.
Even more importantly, we can learn from them. We can appreciate them and we can emulate their greatest qualities. In business and in life we can show up for the things we believe in, have the courage to voice our convictions, and to lead with integrity. We can work to create a culture and a society that reflects the compassion and tolerance that has always made this the greatest country on earth.
So this Veterans Day why don’t you join us in celebrating our real American heroes by living their values; by leading our businesses, our families, and our lives with courage, with conviction, with unwavering ethics, and with compassion and tolerance.
Al Schauer, proud American veteran and patriot.