Letter to My Veteran Sisters and Brothers
I love the history of our Veterans Day, which started out as Armistice Day. Although the treaty ending World War I wasn’t signed until June 28, 1919, fighting ceased seven months earlier with an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany on the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. For that reason, November 11th, 1918 is considered to be the end of “the war to end all wars.”
The origins of Veterans Day
Then in 1938, the US proclaimed that November 11th each year to be a legal holiday, Armistice Day. It was a day dedicated to the cause of world peace and a time to nationally honor and remember the veterans of World War I.
As time wore on, we had a much larger war -- WWII, and later Korea. In 1954, “Armistice Day” was changed to “Veterans Day”, and one of our greatest generals, and then president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, proclaimed, “In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose”.1
Today, while Memorial Day is really to honor those who gave their lives in battle to our country, Veterans Day is really to honor all veterans, especially those still living. So on November 11th this year we will celebrate our country’s 64th Veterans Day.
The ripple effects of war
Unfortunately for many of us veterans, our health problems were caused from our military service. I know too many with PTSD, which is devastatingly real. While General Patton was a great general, and I’m sure glad he was on our side. The memory of the scene in the movie Patton, where he slaps the soldier in the hospital and calls him a coward, will always rankle me.
Thousands of servicemen were purposely exposed to the radiation from atmospheric nuclear tests from 1945 to 1962. (They are literally called “Atomic Veterans”.) Then there are the devastating side effects of Agent Orange (AO), a dangerous chemical sprayed on the DMZ in Korea and throughout Vietnam, and its connection to prostate cancer. There are 16 different health conditions that the VA recognizes as caused by AO, and prostate cancer is one of them. A major study done at a VA facility showed that Vietnam vets have a 52% increased overall risk of prostate cancer and a 75% greater chance of getting the upper grades (Gleason 7-10) prostate cancer.2
Remembering and honoring the sacrifices
So I hope you will join me in honoring America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good on this November 11th. And I hope you will especially remember those veterans who sacrificed their quality of life during their service to our country.
Have you made personal connections through your journey with prostate cancer?