Veteran’s Day began as Armistice Day during World War I. At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Allied Forces and German temporarily ceased their hostilities, an armistice. Armistice Day continued to be a day to remember those who died during WWI. The name was officially changed from Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day in 1954 by Dwight D. Eisenhower. This is the history of Veteran’s Day but it is not my history of Veteran’s Day. I’d like to tell you my history of Veteran’s Day.
On April 21, 2001, I joined the U.S. Army. Two weeks after graduating Highschool, I entered Basic Training. The last field training exercise I had in training was on September 11, 2001. I moved back home to Florida and waited to start college. I can still remember the first time I took my friends to the Veteran’s Day Feast Fest. What is that? It is a modified progressive dinner. Most progressive dinners will give a different course at subsequent locations. Veteran’s Day Feast Fest is just multiple dinners at restaurants that give free food to Veterans. It would make Hobbits jealous.
For many years, I would start at Starbucks for coffee, Krispy Kreme and Dunkin for breakfast. Then I’d find a pizza place or Red Robin for a burger. Dinner is always a challenge because this is when the old timers come out in their mesh trucker hats with their military unit on them. They’ve got a vest, scraggly beard, and usually a cane. They come to eat and they usually stay a while. Usually, after dinner the food coma sets in, the meat sweats haven’t stopped since the second lunch so then after a couple of Tums, I’d fall asleep. Thankful for my country, the free food, and the opportunity to serve in the Army.
After getting married in 2008, Veteran’s Day Feast Fest (VDFF) became a dual celebration. Katie’s birthday is November 9th so we would often combine her birthday and VDFF. She always thought it was ridiculous. I thought it was ridiculous she only wanted one lunch!
A couple of years later, we were out celebrating VDFF and I got a phone call. It was a phone call that changed so much for me. VDFF changed. How I viewed the world changed. How I viewed my military service changed. The week of Katie’s birthday changed. It all changed because I got a call to put on my dress uniform and go inform a family that their 18-year-old son, who had only been overseas for a month and a half was dead. For them, Veteran’s Day would forever point to Memorial Day.
For me, a day of celebrating and feasting immediately turned into a day of darkness and difficulty. The joy of service became the bitter reality of the cost of service. It became the hardest day.
I’m learning hard days, even the hardest ones are not days to avoid. In the face of difficulty, we can cower in fear or we can face it. If we choose to face difficulty, and I think we should, we can approach cautiously or we can approach confidently. If we are given these two options of caution or confidence, we must choose confidence. Throw caution to the wind, you have just this one life so live each day and give each day all you can. Caution never captures the prize. Have confidence in the face of difficulty. Something will break, as long as it isn’t you, you will conquer. Sure you will be tired and maybe have some scars but those will just be reminders of victory. Go confidently. To the victors belong the spoils. We could say that another way, on Veteran’s Day, we feast.