“Honor to the service member everywhere, who bravely bares his country’s cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves as he best can the same cause.” – Abraham Lincoln
There are many federal holidays government employees, service members and the District of Columbia look forward to – and while states have the right to designate their own national holidays, most always follow the federal lead. Veterans Day, November 11th (observed on November 12th), is a holiday which frequently gets lost in translation, often being confused with Memorial Day and Armed Forces Day. The difference in the three seems simple enough – one is dedicated to American service members of all wars, another is a time to remember those who have sacrificed their lives while protecting our country and, the last, pays tribute to the men and women who currently serve in the United States Armed Forces. Do you recognize the explanation of each?
President Woodrow Wilson began the first celebration, of what was then known as Armistice Day, in 1919 with parades marking the end of World War I. It wasn’t until 1954 that President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a legislation which replaced the word “Armistice” with “Veterans”. Some still wear red poppies to commemorate the day but how do you actually celebrate this holiday? Other than relaxing during a four-day weekend, eating a free meal at a restaurant or parading in the streets, is there anything else to do?
In the past ten years, the amount of homeless veterans has risen. Everyone has their theory of why they believe this has become an epidemic but, at the end of the day, the amount of homeless veterans is still rising at an alarming rate. No one plans to get out of the military and become homeless. Augusta has a population of veterans who are homeless and need their “brothers and sisters in arms” (along with anyone else willing to help) to rededicate this Veterans Day to them. There are many places you can volunteer your time or donate to.
I’ve recently learned about the work Kansas City veterans has done with their village of tiny homes through the Veterans Community Project (VCP). Founded because of the frustrations of homelessness in the veteran community, this group provides transitional-housing and service solutions to help homeless vets get on the right track. Although VCP has created the beginnings of a huge game changer for veterans, other cities – including Augusta – have jumped on board.
In June of 2018, the Augusta VA Center opened the doors of the Freedom Path Apartments. As part of the federal Enhanced-Use Lease Program, three unused buildings were renovated to accommodate homeless veterans or those at risk of becoming homeless. A total of 98 unfurnished apartments became available. Of course this doesn’t rid Augusta of its homeless population, but with Freedom’s Path and local shelters, it puts a dent in the amount of veterans on the street.
“Never was so much owed by so many to so few.” –Winston Churchill
What can you do to celebrate Veterans Day this year? Volunteer your time, help at your local food kitchen or donate your unused blankets and clothes to a shelter. Most importantly, be kind to a vet. One small gesture can mean a lot to someone who has lost it all. Never forget, the homeless are people too. It takes a village!
Happy Veterans Day to all who have served!