November 11 is Veterans’ Day, an opportunity for Americans who support our troops, past and present, to gather together and champion the men and women in uniform who serve and defend the United States.

Wakefield’s 2007 Veterans’ Day ceremonies will take place on Sunday, November 11 at 11 a.m. in the Galvin Middle School Auditorium.

Attendance at last year’s local Veterans’ Day exercises was sparse at best, and some observed that Wakefield can and should do better when it comes to honoring veterans, especially at a time when the country is at war.

It’s true. Veterans’ Day is not about “other people.” Every one of us has a family member or relative who served or is currently serving in the armed forces. They are our brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents. We should all be willing to give one hour a year to honor them.

But don’t think of attending Veterans’ Day observances as a solemn duty. While some may view events like Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day as an obligation, they are mostly people who have never attended. Those who do attend have learned that these observances are not duties to be avoided, but events to look forward to. In fact, they are worthwhile programs that will leave you with a good feeling.

In communities like Wakefield, Veterans’ Day is a chance for friends, neighbors and citizens of the town to gather together. It’s an opportunity to see and greet each other and our town and state officials in person.

It’s also a chance to see and hear some of the most talented musicians and singers in the area performing some great music. Musicians from Wakefield High School are perennial winners of state championships. Have you ever heard them perform?

The Wakefield Choral Society also performs each Veterans’ Day. Formed in 1988, they are entering their 20th year. Have you still never heard these incredible singers? Attending Veterans Day ceremonies is, among other things, a chance to enjoy some fine music by talented local performers.

I am at a loss to explain why it is that more people do not attend events like Veteran’s Day.

Maybe some believe that such observances glorify war. But a brief history lesson shows that just the opposite is true. Veterans’ Day was originally Armistice Day, created to celebrate the peace that came with the end of World War I, “the war to end all wars.” The name was changed to Veteran’s Day after World War II, in order to include all veterans.

Veterans’ Day is not one of those floating Monday holidays, designed to give everyone a long weekend. Because it is rooted in the Armistice that ended World War I, Veteran’s Day ceremonies always take place at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, regardless of the day of the week. Unfortunately, many employers do not grant Veteran’s Day as a paid holiday, so when it falls during the week, some people may have to work.

This year, that will be less of an excuse for not attending observances, as Veterans’ Day falls on a Sunday. Even in our increasingly secular society, most people don’t work on Sunday.

No matter how people feel about President Bush or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Veterans’ Day should not be a referendum on policy, over which soldiers have no control.

Veterans’ Day is a time for all patriotic Americans to set aside their political differences and join together in honoring our veterans and those on active duty.

It is, quite literally, the least we can do.

[The column originally appeared in the November 1, 2007 Wakefield Daily Item.]


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