Veteran’s Day: The Origins and The Meaning

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. – Psalm 20:7

For many, Veterans Day is a day off. Most recently, it has become a day where restaurants offer free meals to those who have served our great country. Salesmen have come to like Veterans Day too because car sales and those who work for a commission have added bonuses.

Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for the support and look forward to a day off like anyone else. But, I wonder how many of us really know what Veterans Day is about and how many really care?

Do we understand the 11th hour, 11th day, 11th month? War tallies from WWI show that over 110,000 Americans were killed and over 200,000 were wounded. Thought to be “The War to End All Wars” in 1918, when WWII broke out in 1939, those hopes were washed away with the blood of over 400,000 Americans killed by war’s end in 1945. Over time, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day and continues to be recognized on November 11th regardless of what day it happens to fall.

Today, Veterans Day represents a day of thankfulness and remembrance for all those who have served America as a Soldier, Marine, or Airman to include both the living and the dead.

According to military regulations, a person who is registered with Selective Services at age 18, and at some point thereafter joins one of four branches of American military and serves that force for 180 days of Active Duty is considered a Veteran. Obviously, there are exceptions to this regulation if a soldier joins the military and is wounded or killed prior to the 180 days while serving in combat operations. Such designations make available to soldiers who honorably served financial opportunities they would otherwise not be afforded like home loans, schooling and other benefits. However, the basic and most understandable definition is simply one who has served in our nation’s wars.

soldiers-prayingThe word Veteran comes from the Latin word, vetus and means “old”. As a former Non-Commissioned Officer and still serving now as a Field Grade Officer, I see this as a good promotion board question. Once you assume the title of Veteran, you are considered old! Rightly so, since the level of exposure to life and death is far beyond that which the average civilian will ever witness. And not just any life or death but that of your battle buddies and the enemies who tried to kill you. These actions with their moral injury are sure to make one age quicker than others their same age. In fact recent studies are finding exactly that. So it is not just the trauma and exposure to life threatening situations but the overall experience.

I will never forget my first day of college. I was 22 years old, most of my peers from high school that went to college did so right after graduation but I went into the military and deployed to Desert Storm. Once back in the states, I started college and noticed that my peers although further advanced in schooling were clueless about world events and had no idea what soldiers actually went through. In a way these experiences helped me but in others they did not help at all. When understanding is lacking, assumption and disinformation take over. Even my professors to include my history professors had no source of comparison for the things they taught or thought they knew.

soldiers-prayingFor these reasons, I agree with recent conservative comments that our national leaders need to have military experience somewhere in their past. The degree of variance is too great between those who have and those who have not. Mine is not an indictment toward those who have not served but an observation. Those who have fought our nations wars see, experience, reason, solve, and measure outcomes in more diverse ways. This fact is a strength not a weakness. It is a strength that needs to be harnessed and aimed.

Recently, a soldier friend of mine who is now a civilian named Andrew Lewis is trying his hand at politics in Pennsylvania. I applaud his efforts because I know and have served with him and all who served with him trust him not only with their lives but with their friendship. His trust was forged in battle. One of the best ways to know you can trust someone is to see how they act, react, and respond when being shot at or blown up. Outside of the soldier population, few can claim such a crucible of experience. Bottom line, Soldiers carry attributes that are best experienced and molded in combat.

As I reflect on Veterans Day this year, I am reminded of my Grandfather who served WWII on the U.S.S. San Francisco from 1941-1944, my dad who was a Veteran, my three uncles who are Veterans of foreign wars, and my two younger brothers who are Veterans of foreign wars as well. More importantly, I am thankful for the family members who faithfully prayed for them and wept at the thought of losing one of them in battle. People like my grandmother who prayed for her husband, three sons, and five grandsons through war with all returning home safely. In addition to my grandmother and my mom, I am most thankful to my wife Ashley who through three of my four deployments thus far has raised our four daughters and prayerfully saw me through the last 17 years of marriage. The sacrifices of Veteran families is unrecognized and the silent strength show by them is something we need to highlight and discuss.

From one Veteran to others, I want to personally say thank you for your service and to your families I say thank you for your sacrifice. May the Lord continue to richly bless our great nation, if for no other reason than for our soldiers and families. Happy Veterans Day!

Mijikai Mason
Disclaimer: The thoughts and views published on the Veterans to Christ blog are those of Mijikai Mason and in no way are meant to represent the United States Army or the Armed Forces.

Bio: Mijikai Mason is an Ordained Southern Baptist minister and Chaplain in the United States Army. He has been in the Army for 26 years both as an enlisted Soldier and now as an Officer. He has been stationed at various bases in the United States and in United States Army Garrison Schweinfurt, Germany. He holds an undergraduate degree in Religion from the University of Mobile, a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in Theology and Evangelism and a Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Webster University. Chaplain (MAJ) Mijikai Mason was selected by the Army in 2013, to become a Family Life Chaplain and began his service in this field starting 15 May 2015. He is the Deputy ESC Chaplain and Family Life Chaplain for the 593 Expeditionary Support Command at Joint Base Lewis McCord. He has deployed four times: Desert Storm (1991), Iraq twice (2005-2006; 2007-2008), and Afghanistan (2012-2013). He has a total of 42 months deployed in combat and logistics operations. Mijikai and his wife, Ashley, have been married for 17 years this May and live near Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington with their four daughters.