Veterans Day. It’s the holiday that so many people seem to forget. They forget when it is. “Didn’t we celebrate that in the summer?” It’s the same day, every year. They forget what it’s for. No, it’s not to remember the fallen who gave their lives in battle. It’s even a holiday that is respected in some labor contracts and not in others. As this Veterans Day approaches, as our country works through so much political turmoil, it seems appropriate to take some time and reflect on what Veterans Day is to us.
One of the most common misconceptions about Veterans Day is how it’s spelled. The U.S. Department of Defense addresses this in the most simple, yet elegant way. It states, “a lot of people think it’s “Veteran’s Day” or “Veterans’ Day,” but they’re wrong. The holiday is not a day that “belongs” to one veteran or multiple veterans, which is what an apostrophe implies. It’s a day for honoring all veterans — so no apostrophe needed.” The elimination of a simple punctuation mark lets us know that all veterans, regardless of length or type of service, or current life status deserve to be honored for their service to our nation, equally. And we should.
While it’s easy for some to confuse Memorial Day for Veterans Day, there is one distinct difference. Veterans Day honors the living. We boldly and confidently shout out “never forget” those who lost their lives in battle. We must remember. However, we should never forget the living. Those living and working right next to us. Once we get beyond family members it’s easy to forget that the officer working with you on the street was a veteran before becoming a cop.
It’s easy to forget the business leader we see in the newspaper, the nurse who cares for us in the hospital, and the construction worker who builds our homes, all of whom carry out their jobs with professionalism, served our nation in times of war and peace. And it’s easy to look past the man battling with mental health issues and addiction on our sidewalk once protected our nation with honor and distinction.
Sometimes it’s easier to honor the dead than to understand and cope with the present. With those living with us and amongst us. But, in fact, that is our duty to our country. Once a year. To push past our personal discomfort to look at those, both successful and struggling, and remember them as human beings. To remember them as our brothers and sisters. To look them in the eyes and simply and purposefully say, “thank you.” Because as we’ve learned, the physical and mental battle scars all of these patriots suffered follow them well past their active military service. They sacrifice a piece of themselves, forever.
The SFPD is fortunate to have so many veterans who wear our star. They have a calling to serve, and our city enjoys the benefit of their professionalism and commitment to creating a safer city.
This Veterans Day, remember to honor the living. Because no matter what the future may hold, their sacrifice and service should never be forgotten.