Duluth News Tribune

At first, we called the holiday Armistice Day. This was in 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson decided to mark the end of fighting in World War I and the armistice the year before on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. There were to be parades and ceremonies and other public events to commemorate and honor returning military men.

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But Congress changed the holiday in 1954. In the wake of World War II and the Korean War, "Armistice" was replaced with "Veterans" to be more inclusive. Fourteen years after that, the Uniform Holiday Bill changed the holiday again, making Veterans Day another Monday holiday, never mind if it didn't fall exactly on the 11th day of the 11th month; giving federal workers a three-day weekend seemed more important. Finally, the holiday reverted back to Nov. 11, as it is now, in 1978.

All the jerking around has perpetuated apathy and has caused great confusion about Veterans Day. The holiday has become, unfortunately, all too reminiscent of our nation's uneasy and awkward relationship with our own history and with our military members returning from battle or service.

Sadly, "The holiday has morphed into a generic holiday," as author and psychotherapist Ed Tick, who treated hundreds of military veterans during a 40-year career, said in 2014 in the Times Union newspaper of Albany, N.Y.

For their service and sacrifice for our freedoms, our warriors deserve better.

And are starting to get better. Where we used to exploit them for an extra vacation day and ignore their shell shock, PTSD, or whatever we choose to call the demons that come home with them - and where we even spit on them and shunned them, as happened during the Vietnam era - veterans now are the beneficiaries of at least some effort at support and the assistance needed to transition back into productive civilian and family lives.

We have a ways to go, but the progress can continue on this year's Veterans Day, which is Saturday, in both small and large ways.

However we can, let's take a moment in honor of Veterans Day to express our gratitude, to pay tribute, and to show respect. We can reject any apathy and leave no confusion about our gestures in honor of our military men and women, past and present.