On Monday, Nov. 11, schools, post offices and other government-related functions were closed.

It is a holiday for some, but a remembrance for all. Nov. 11 is Veterans Day, when we take the time to honor those who fought for our freedom and those who still do every day. It is OK to enjoy the day off, but it is imperative we use part of that time to take heed of what it is actually about and find a way to give back to those who gave so much for us.

First, a little history of the day itself.

Nov. 11, 1919, was the first anniversary of World War I, and it was the year Armistice Day — later changed to Veterans Day — was originated. Veterans Day occurs on Nov. 11 every year in the U.S., in honor of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 that signaled the end of the war.

In 1926, Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance, and in 1938 it became a national holiday. It is unique because it gives thanks to all American veterans, deceased and living, who have served our country honorably, both in peacetime and in any U.S. involved war.

In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day — and in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which changed the date to the fourth Monday in October. The law went into effect in 1971, but in 1975, President Gerald Ford returned Veterans Day to Nov. 11, due to the important historical significance of the date.

Several other countries, including Great Britain, France, Australia and Canada commemorate the veterans of World War I and World War II on or near Nov. 11. Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain has Remembrance Sunday on the second Sunday of November.

There is a two-minute silent observance throughout many of the European countries at 11 a.m. every Nov. 11, and at Arlington National Cemetery, there is an annual service at the home of the graves of over 400,000 people, mostly veterans. 

Some other interesting facts I found in my research include that there are over 18 million living veterans who have served during at least one war as of the end of 2018. Out of those, almost 10 percent of these veterans are women, and I would venture to guess those numbers have probably gone up in 2019.

From my generation, there were 7 million veterans that served in Vietnam, over 3 million served in the War on Terrorism, over 2 million served during the Korean War and of the over 16 million Americans who served during World War II, about 496,777 were still alive as of 2018. Sadly, I am sure that number has decreased in the last 12 months. The numbers are staggering.

So, what can we do to show our appreciation besides taking the day off or spending time with our grandchildren? A few days ago, Grandpa and I went out for breakfast before running our errands. We sat down at the booth we were directed to, and as I got settled, I saw an older gentleman sipping on a cup of coffee at the next booth.

He was a little frail and apparently was alone, but in the middle of his meal. He wore a Vietnam Veteran hat that seemed to be a bit worn from wear. Our eyes met, and I smiled, and mouthed the words, “Hello, thank you so much for your service.” He smiled back, nodded and said, “Thanks!”

After we finished our meal, I went over to this gentleman and said, “Hello, my name is Marla. What is yours?” He smiled brightly and said, “I’m Al.” We chatted for a minute or two, and then I shook his hand and wished him a good day. It took all of a few moments to bring a smile to both our faces as I thought back to the Vietnam War days with sadness.

I lost several friends in the early ‘70s, as we all do in any confrontation, but the way the returning veterans were treated then was appalling. I always said, “Hate the war, not the warrior,” but perhaps meeting Al and telling him thanks was my small way of letting him know that he is valued, even 60 years later — and that his sacrifices gave me the opportunity to spend Nov. 11 with my grandchildren.

To all our veterans, their families and veterans of our allied countries, thank you very much for your service and sacrifices.

Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with several local senior care and advocacy groups. Reach her at marla2054@aol.com.