Liana Whitehead

Heroes for more than a day

Liana Whitehead

For decades, the United States has nationally recognized military veterans on two celebratory days: Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

On Monday, Americans will observe the older of the two national holidays – a day dedicated to veterans, both alive and eternally at rest.

In 1926, it was celebrated as “Armistice Day” — the first anniversary of World War I.

Ten years later, Nov. 11 officially became home to a national holiday now known as Veterans Day.

This year, Veterans Day will observe more than 20 million U.S. military members from young men and women to those who honorably served during WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam — more than two million of whom reside in California.

Starry flags of royal blue and crimson will fly on front porches over the weekend. Black POW/MIA flags will soar over homes and businesses with concern for prisoners of war and those missing in action.

Military men and women who have served during wartime and eras of peace will receive recognition for their heroism.

In California alone, many of the major cities host annual parades and street celebrations.

Los Angeles veterans and supporters celebrate annually with grandiose band music and parade floats.

In 2011, San Diego hosted a college basketball game, featuring Michigan State and North Carolina, on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson, a Navy supercarrier.

Here at home, Fresno hosts the largest annual parade west of the Mississippi, according to event organizer John Schuler.

Soldiers serving from afar, in places as perilous as Afghanistan, are familiar with Fresno’s yearly celebration.

Although millions of Americans recognize our past and present heroes on Veterans Day, all of the marching bands and flowery floats are miniscule in comparison to the attention they should receive on a daily basis.

These grounds — the soil on which our country was built —are stained with the losses and consequences of many wars and battles.

But nationally, we only recognize these heroes two of the 365 days in a year when they deserve more recognition than American politicians and celebrities.

Since 1675, American men (and now women) walked onto battlegrounds understanding the consequences of war: injury, loss of loved ones and the chance of one’s own death.

Today, more than 300 years later, servicemen and women choose to aid their country in times of war and peace.

The draft no longer exists, and despite what critics of American military say, servicemen and women, though untrue of some, serve their country because they want to.

In a time when U.S. heroes should be reveled and rewarded, many are victim to homelessness and mental health issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The number of homeless veterans is devastating.

As of 2011, one in seven homeless people previously served in the military, according to the Huffington Post.

Tens of thousands of veterans do not have a steady roof over their heads.

Quality treatment for mental illness is something President Barack Obama says he is working toward, and rightfully so.

If the U.S. government insists on providing welfare to all who ask, American veterans should rest at the top as deserving candidates for government aid.

As for the rest of the nation, we have a responsibility to our neighbors and loved ones, many of whom have been changed by wartime experiences.

Rather than taking two days out of the year to salute our military men and women, they should remain in hearts and minds year-round.

Whether we join veteran-affiliated organizations, volunteer at a veteran center or connect with service members we know, we are bound to make a difference in at least a single life.

Now is the time to take on our own civil duty — to realize the sacrifices of millions of men and women, and to seize every opportunity to express our gratitude.