There are about 19 million living veterans in our country, about 6% of our population. Over one-and-a-half million live in California, the state with the largest veteran population.
There are nearly 3 million post-9/11 veterans who represent less than 1% of our total population.
By definition, a veteran means a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.
Veterans Day finds its origin at the close of World War I, the 11th hour, on the 11th day, in the 11th month in 1918 when the armistice with Germany went into effect.
Initially, it was called Armistice Day, meant to celebrate the cause of world peace after World War I.
In 1938, Congress made Armistice Day a legal holiday, and then Congress acted again and renamed it Veterans Day in 1954 and expanded its meaning to celebrate all veterans.
So, is this a day of celebration, and if so, what are we celebrating?
Imagine our country without an Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard. Further imagine, without our armed forces, what limited, if any, influence we would have in the world?
A recent Amazon Prime series, “The Man in the High Castle,” postulates this scenario. Nazi Germany and Imperialistic Japan were the victors of World War II, and their spoils of war were the division of the United States.
The eastern half of the United States, Germany controls, and the western half, Japan controls. Fortunately for us, this is only a fictional series. However, is a scenario like this plausible in our future? Absolutely, if not for our armed forces and their global preeminence!
The startling fact is we have less than 1% of our population securing our nation and global interests who are willing to take this oath: “I solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So, help me, God.”
With this oath comes huge sacrifices, not only for the veterans but also for their families, too. Post-9/11, it’s hard to conceive that many of our career service members serve one-third to half their time in a combat zone. The physical, emotional and financial toll this takes on the service member and their family is extraordinary.
Yet they serve, and seldom do you hear a complaint coming from them.
Veterans bring back so many beneficial attributes to our communities, too, and that’s why the public and private sectors seek them. Whether a newly enlisted private or a retiring four-star general, every veteran lives and breathes values because it’s the basis of their character, and it bestows trust throughout the organization.
The Army drills into us core values from the day we enter until the day we leave the service. We memorize the acronym LDRSHIP, and when broken down, it means loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. The recitation of LDRSHP is a reminder of our commitment to our oath, service, and brother and sister at arms.
Veterans also bring mission focus to endeavors they engage. They lead and coalesce teams and are purpose-driven, and recognize that the team’s efforts, not theirs alone, create success. They place country, family, mission, and team first, and political and social ideology second. They’re action-oriented, civil, and find a way to get it done with others. They’re problem solvers and collaborators and seek progress over perfection. And they are tenacious; when knocked down, they get up and, with renewed zeal, get after the mission — no wonder why the public service and private sector businesses want them leading their teams.
The birth of our nation created veterans. They preserve our superpower status and our security depends on them. The veterans’ contributions to our society post-service, character, values, civility, mission-focus, problem-solving and collaboration are even more to celebrate.
To think we have a tiny percentage of our population willing to give and forgo so much, even their lives, so the rest of us may exist in a place of prosperity, peace and harmony, chasing our dreams, is astounding.
For this, we all should celebrate and be grateful for our veterans’ sacrifices and contributions to our great nation. Happy Veterans Day celebration!
Paul A. Raggio is co-owner, with his sister Lisa, of One True North INC Leadership and Business Coaching Solutions.