Recognizing Veterans Day
By Master Sgt. Sammie Spears, 21st Medical Group Family Practice Clinic flight chief
/ Published November 08, 2010
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- As the son of a U.S. Army veteran, I often say that I've been in the military my entire life. My father, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Spears, served our nation for 30 years and retired from active duty in the spring of 1989.
His primary occupation was in the field of intelligence and his missions took him all over the world and through several conflicts. Because of his specialty, Command Sgt. Maj. Spears was often deployed for more than 200 days a year to locations he could not disclose. When I would ask him why he had to miss a birthday or a holiday, his response was always, "because I'm a Soldier." As a child, it was hard for me to understand why he was always gone, however, I remember him returning home from his excursions with mementos of his travels, many of which my siblings and I fought over.
Of his many accomplishments, I believe completing two tours in Vietnam is his greatest. He never really speaks much of that portion of his military career, but it is where he met my mother, so we often have conversations along those lines.
Growing up, I often asked my father about the war and what he experienced, but he was always short with his answers -- not to be rude, but to protect. To this day, I'm not certain if he was protecting me from the horrors of war that plagued him or if he was protecting himself from the images burned to his memory. Either way, I could sense the war and all that he endured had taken something from him and replaced it with emotions and ideas that were better kept in the past.
My father is a proud veteran, which is one of the reasons I serve in the Air Force today. He couldn't convince me to wear Army green, but he did convince me to love our nation and to serve it to the utmost of my ability.
He is one of millions of veterans who have sacrificed more than just years of their lives to the service of our country. Many have sacrificed families, careers or a comfortable way of living to wear our service uniforms and go thousands of miles from home to fight our enemies, preventing them from coming to our great country and wreaking havoc.
I look at veterans, adorned with patches and pins of their accomplishments, and I often slip into deep thought. I wonder what their eyes have seen. I wonder what their hands have created. I wonder what their minds recall and their hearts reminisce. Ultimately, I wonder what I could do to honor them for their service.
Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, was originally set as a U.S. legal holiday to honor the end of World War I, which officially took place on Nov. 11, 1918. In 1938, legislation was passed to mark Nov. 11 as a day dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day, and was declared a legal holiday to honor World War I veterans.
By the mid 1950s, the United States had endured both World War II and the Korean War and numerous veterans' service organizations urged Congress to recognize veterans of all wars. Thus, on June 1, 1954, legislation was passed by the 83rd U.S. Congress which amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting the word "Veterans."
In 1968, the United States Holiday Bill ensured three-day weekends for federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays, including Veterans Day. Many states disagreed with this decision and continued to celebrate the holiday on its original date.
In 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law which returned Veterans Day to its original date of Nov. 11, beginning in 1978 and it has been observed on that day ever since, regardless of which day of the week it is.
The restoration of Veterans Day to Nov. 11 not only preserves the historical significance of this date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
Command Sgt. Maj. Spears, U.S. Army veteran, is enjoying his retirement in Las Vegas, Nev. Even today, more than 20 years after he took off his uniform, he still spends much of his time serving our country and military through Soldier support.
Eventually, the time will come for me to take off this uniform and I will also become a veteran; leaving the active duty ranks and entering the honorable ranks of those who have served. When that day comes, I will be certain to do my best to recognize the heroism of the veterans who inspired me, led me and served with me. But most importantly, I will be certain to recognize all veterans on Veterans Day.