Column: Everything you should know about Veterans Day

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Photo by Sehoon Baek

American flags laid out on Naperville North High School grounds, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021.

Sehoon Baek, Special to The North Star

Thursday, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day in the U.S. On this day, we commemorate the men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces. It is not to be confused with Armed Forces Day, which honors currently serving members, or Memorial Day, which honors the memory of those killed in the line of duty. Here are some frequently asked questions about Veterans Day and their answers:

Using the term “military veterans,” who are we commemorating? 

On Veterans Day, we commemorate all those who have served and been discharged under non-dishonorable conditions from any branch of the Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and recently, Space Force). 

Why is it on Nov. 11?

 Nov. 11, 1918 was the date of the Armistice of Compiègne that ended World War I. On this day, the Allied Powers agreed with Germany to put an indefinite end to the four-year war that had destroyed many parts of the world and cost untold suffering. Germany, by this point, was the last of the Central Powers that was still standing, and was beset by food shortages, mutinies within the Navy and a successful Allied offensive into German lines, among other problems that hampered its ability to continue fighting. 

Nov. 11, until World War II, was originally marked as “Armistice Day” in recognition of this armistice; however, after World War II, veteran Raymond Weeks petitioned the government to expand Armistice Day into a celebration of all veterans, not just those who fought in World War I. Known as the “father of Veterans Day,” Weeks led the first national celebration of the modern Veterans Day in 1947, and his efforts eventually led to “Armistice Day” being changed to “Veterans Day” in 1954 by Congress.

Do other countries celebrate Nov. 11? 

Yes, they do! The term “Veterans Day,” however, is generally exclusive to the US; in France and Belgium, as well as most Commonwealth countries (former British colonies), the day is known as Remembrance Day. Honoring the British tradition, many cities in these countries commonly hold celebrations at their local Cenotaph, a stone monument based on the design of a temporary memorial originally built in 1919. In France, veterans are honored through the wearing of the bleuet de France, the blue cornflower, which takes the place of the red poppy, which is used in the Commonwealth.

The U.K. and the Commonwealth are unique in that the bulk of their celebrations actually take place on Remembrance Sunday, the closest Sunday to Nov. 11. This year, this date will be on Nov. 14. These celebrations are not strictly limited to former British colonies that became independent; although it is no longer a public holiday since the handover to Communist China in 1997, Hong Kong has continuously commemorated Remembrance Sunday at its own Cenotaph in light of its brief occupation by the Japanese during World War II.  

What celebrations will our community be involved in on Veterans Day? 

Celebrations will vary by community. The city of Aurora plans to hold its annual Veterans Day Parade beginning at 10:15 a.m., led by a group of female veterans. 

Naperville North High School students will be watching a video in class on Thursday. Per tradition, posters commemorating staff members and students who have served in the Armed Forces have been hung up near the Main Entrance, facing benches dedicated in memory of two Naperville North alumni who were killed in action. 

What holidays are there to celebrate the achievements of female service members specifically?

Women Veterans Day, June 12, celebrates the passage of the Women Armed Services Integration Act in 1948 that allowed women to serve as permanent, regular members of the Armed Forces, rather than as part of auxiliary branches. 

How can I show support for veterans? 

A non-profit charity dedicated to helping veterans, the United Service Organizations (USO) has provided programs to active-duty service members and their families for over 80 years. You can donate to, fundraise for or volunteer at charities such as the USO, in addition to other organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project

We should be proud of our veterans and remember those from our community who have been killed, wounded, missing in action or become prisoners of war. We salute all those who have served, are serving or intend to serve in the future. 

For those who are no longer with us, as the Book of Ecclesiasticus says and as is inscribed in the many Stones of Remembrance that dot the cemeteries of the Commonwealth, “their bodies are buried in peace, but their names liveth forevermore.” We will not forget them, and on Thursday, we will remember them as we remember those who are still with us.