While it doesn’t seem to get the same sort of pomp and circumstance as Memorial Day and even Labor Day, Veterans Day is an extremely important tribute for the United States military. November 11 is Veterans Day and it is honored by many who have served the country and their families. What is the history of this holiday?

History of Veterans Day in the United States

The date of November 11 was established toward the end of World War I in 1918 when fighting stopped after an armistice agreement was signed. The war did not officially end until June of the following year but November 11 became known as the last day of the “war to end all wars.” In November of 1919, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson declared November 11th an official commemorative day for veterans of all wars, which was originally called Armistice Day. Originally the day was celebrated with parades and public meetings and included a suspension of business at 11:00 a.m. across the United States.

However, Veterans Day as we know it today was not established until Congress passed an Act in May of 1939. In the 1970s, the date was briefly moved to October but this was confusing so by the end of the decade it was restored to November 11.

Unlike Memorial Day which honors individuals who died while serving the country, Veterans Day commemorates the actions of individuals still living who fought in this nation’s wars.

Not gold, but only man can make
A people great and strong;
Men who, for truth and honor’s sake,
Stand fast and suffer long.

Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly —
They build a nation’s pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.
– “A Nation’s Strength” by Walt Whitman

How to celebrate in your community

The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) offers several suggestions for appropriately honoring this holiday. They encourage schools and community organizations to create Veteran’s Day celebrations that fit the mood of the holiday.

These may include:

  • Ceremony: A traditional Veterans day ceremony includes a prelude and posting of colors (the U.S. Flag). This can be followed by the pledge of allegiance and singing the national anthem. There may be speakers and guests or student readings for the remainder of the ceremony.
  • Flag raising: If the weather is good, a formal flag raising ceremony outdoors is highly encouraged.
  • Teaching opportunities: Teachers and parents can encourage children to learn more about veterans’ contributions to United States history by learning about historical figures. They may also learn about how veterans were treated after returning from different foreign engagements. Invite a veteran into the classroom to speak about their experience. Have children create posters honoring the veterans in their families.

Why Veterans Day is important

At Holistic Pain we feel that it is important to acknowledge not only the contributions that the men and women in the armed forces have made for our country but also to recognize their struggles once they return home.

Chronic pain, mental illness, and long-term trauma are real concerns faced by military veterans. These issues can affect individuals immediately and for years after they return from a combat situation. Unfortunately there isn’t always enough attention paid to the health and recovery of these important contributors to our society. We want to be a part of the solution to provide the right support for returning veterans as they relearn how to navigate their daily lives back at home.

In August of 2014 the JAMA Internal Medicine network featured an article about military veterans and chronic pain. The study measured rates of chronic pain and opioid drug use among members of a brigade of over 2,000 soldiers who were returning home from Afghanistan. A smaller portion of these soldiers had also served in Iraq previously. They were interviewed three months after returning home and reintegrating into life at home. The study intended to show how many soldiers returned to the United States experiencing chronic pain as well as the opioid use to control their condition. Forty-four percent of these soldiers reported chronic pain lasting at least three months. Fifteen percent of these soldiers had used opioid medications within the previous months’ time.

The dangers of opioid use and developing dependency are concerns for doctors treating these patients. Because of the highly addictive nature of opiate drugs, patients taking these medications need to be monitored and treated for additional side effects such as depression and anxiety. If chronic pain does not respond to less drastic forms of control, opioids can seem like the obvious choice but there is responsibility that comes with prescribing these medications.

The men and women who serve in our nature’s military deserve the best treatment and recent issues involving the VA processes are a major concern for many interested in working with and for U.S. veterans.

Beyond chronic pain, U.S. veterans are also susceptible to mental illnesses, sometimes as a direct response to trauma or the pain that they have experienced. Patients often need assistance with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as depression and anxiety related to their experience in combat or the chronic pain they experience as a result of an injury.

In this way, we believe that a holistic approach to veterans’ health services can be one of the answers to a better experience upon returning home. Simply treating pain without acknowledging the mental aspects of their experience does not encourage long-term healing. Some veterans can benefit from alternative practices such as mindfulness meditation along with traditional medical treatments for injuries or chronic pain.

At Holistic Pain we want to honor all of the men and women who have served in our nation’s military. We encourage everyone to be respectful and helpful while celebrating veterans’ contributions to our country’s history. If you have a loved one who has returned from active duty we encourage you to show your support every day, not just on November 11. You may also wish to volunteer in your community as a way to honor those who have fought for our freedoms.

We want to hear from you. Do you have military members of your family and how do you celebrate and honor them on Veteran’s Day?

Image by DVIDSHUB via Flickr


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