In early November, we come together on Election Day to cast our votes — to pick the candidate whose priorities and manner we most approve. It’s hard to beat the excitement of an Election Day that dawns on millions of citizens re-enlisting in the future of our Republic.
On November 11th, Veterans’ Day, many of us honor the military service of our men and women. We stand in mourning beside their families. We visit them in crowded VA hospitals. We see them in divorce courts or on sidewalks outside homeless shelters.
According to emails exchanged by a VA physician (Dr. Katz) and The VA’s Assistant Deputy of Health in 2007:
“18 veterans kill themselves every day and this is confirmed by the VA’s own statistics. Is that true? Sounds awful but if one is considering 24 million veterans.” That same day, Dr. Katz responded: “There are about 18 suicides per day among America’s 25 million veterans.”
Despite our poor track record in caring for our veterans, the earliest European settlers in The New World intended to defend and protect them. The Plymouth Colony legislated pensions for veterans of the “Indian Wars” (1636). However, the vague language of the old law should be noted (bold added for emphasis):
“That in case necessity require to send [forces] abroade … any that shall goe returne maymed [and] hurt he shall be mayntayned competently by the Colony duringe his life.”
In 1930, Congress established the Veterans’ Administration in order to streamline its provision of services. Unfortunately, a system of shell games was promulgated wherein services were underfunded by the Feds and under-delivered by the States.
Thanksgiving is the third of our November days and through the years, its date and purpose have been remarkably fluid.
Residents of The Virginia Colony gave thanks to God in 1619 at the end of their grueling journey across the Atlantic.
In 1621, The Plymouth Colony gave thanks to God for the bountiful harvest. In years to come, they would fast in prayer and penance when their stores ran thin.
When wars ended in victory, our political councils decreed that the populace should rejoice before God and praise Him. In Charlestown, Massachusetts, for instance, the good people gave praise and thanks in 1671 for their “advantages” over, and defeat of, “the Heathen Natives.”
In our darkest national moments, the people have been urged to praise God officially and pray for Divine Intervention. On November 1, 1777, The Continental Congress declared the first National Day of Thanksgiving. By its language and exhortations, the early legislature seemed to hope that the nation’s piety would appease The Almighty; that soldiers and commanders would gain vital courage from the Colonies’ renewed bond with The Father.
The next month, General George Washington declared another day of Thanksgiving after the Continental Army’s victory at Saratoga.
During the Depression, depending on whether November had four or five weeks in a given year, Franklin D.Roosevelt designated Thanksgiving the third or fourth Thursday of the month (1939 and 1940). Roosevelt had hopes that an additional week of consumer spending between Thanksgiving and Christmas would stimulate the broken economy.
How would it be if we designated November as our national month of remembrance?
What if every November we studied The Constitution — the only thing our soldiers are sworn to defend and protect.
We could renew our gratitude for religious freedom.
We could study the peoples and cultures we usurped when we swarmed the continent.
We could learn from our history. We could develop humility.
We could teach our children civility and the richness of debate.
We could designate Election Day a National Holiday — a national day of citizenship and conscience.
Perhaps our Veterans would fare better if our political will was more comprehensively pricked.
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Much of the information in this article can be found at The Veterans’ Administration’s (VA) history page: http://www1.va.gov/opa/feature/history/docs/history1.pdf, The Plymouth Colony Archive Project: http://www.histarch.uiuc.edu/plymouth/laws1.html ; the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs http://veterans.house.gov/news/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=242 ; and Early America’s Thanksgiving pages: http://www.earlyamerica.com/earlyamerica/firsts/thanksgiving/
As a matter of medical interest, you might visit The Veterans’ Administration’s Research & Development page: http://www.research.va.gov/