Veterans Day, celebrated on Nov. 11, is a time of reflection to pay tribute to the men and women who have served in the United States armed services throughout history. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates there are approximately 18 million veterans in the U.S. and 1.4 million currently serving today.
To honor these veterans, many Americans visit historical sights and thank service members and veterans for their sacrifices.
“Veterans Day is different from Memorial Day,” said John Holmes, a retired U.S. Marine Corps sergeant major. “Memorial Day is observed to honor service members who have given their life during their service, and Veterans Day honors prior service members who have served and transitioned back into the civilian sector and those who continue with their active service.”
On Nov. 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson issued a message to servicemen on the first Armistice Day to honor veterans of World War I (WWI). The date was set as the major hostilities of WWI were ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service,” Wilson said. “And with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.”
In 1954, a U.S. representative named Ed Rees presented a bill to establish the holiday through congress to honor all veterans. The bill was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on May 26 and the name “Armistice” was replaced with “Veterans” on June 1, 1954.
According to U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Brenden McDaniel, commanding officer, Bravo Company, Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, he is inspired by a quote from President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech Jan. 20, 1961. “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
“To devote yourself to this country and sacrifice time with your family, and possibly even your life for the love of your country says a lot about service member’s’ character,” McDaniel said. “I am proud to be part of an organization that carries so much pride and honor.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Onslow County Veterans Day parade, family fun events and the Veterans Day ceremony have been canceled, but organizations in Onslow County continue to pay tribute through discounts as well as free merchandise and meals.
Many local veterans continue to serve by volunteering and working alongside active duty Marines. Retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. Michael Scalise, served 30 years and continues his service as the assistant chief of staff for Government and External Affairs for Marine Corps Installations East-MCB Camp Lejeune.
“I will forever be grateful for the Marine Corps and all the experiences, opportunities and life-long friends it has given me in all of the places I have been,” Scalise said. “A significant number of people have paid the ultimate sacrifice, and it is important to remember those who came before us and what we stand for. I am proud to associate with the men and women of this community who go out of their way to help this community, regardless of duty status. The city of Jacksonville is better because of them.”
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Joseph Houle, director of the Museum of the Marine in Jacksonville, continues to provide support to MCB Camp Lejeune and the Onslow County community. Each year, Houle assists with the Veterans Day parade in Jacksonville by providing meals for the veterans and active duty service members.
“We need to recognize the sacrifices that our veterans and our active duty have done and do for this country,” said Houle. “If it hadn’t been for those who went before me to defend our nation, it wouldn’t be as great as it is today.”