Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, was originally set as a U.S. legal holiday to honor the end of World War I, which officially took place on November 11, 1918. In legislation that was passed in 1938, November 11 was "dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day.'" As such, this new legal holiday honored World War I veterans. In 1954, after having been through both World War II and the Korean War, the 83rd U.S. Congress -- at the urging of the veterans service organizations -- amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
The difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day -- which originated as Decoration Day following the American Civil War in 1868 -- is Memorial Day specifically honors servicemembers who died in service to their country. And while deceased veterans are also remembered on Veterans Day, Veterans Day is set aside to include living veterans who served -- and continue to serve -- honorably in our military, both in war and in peace.
So of course it only seemed fitting to utilize this holiday as the official kickoff date for the Let's Bring Em Home campaign that you and I started together, oh so many years ago. In truth, LBEH 2015 will be the fourteenth iteration of our annual efforts. For those of you who are new to the EHOWA family and don't know what LBEH is, allow me to provide a little backstory.
About four or five hundred million years ago, I was a snot-nosed nineteen year old kid shipping off to USAF basic training. I was very fortunate in the fact that I ended up stationed at Hanscom AFB in Massachusetts, while my family was a quick six hour drive west, in Rochester, New York. Now I say fortunate because my original orders following tech school were for Hickam AFB in Hawaii, but the guy I swapped my orders with was diverted to Maxwell AFB in Alabama three weeks before we graduated. Anyway, with my family so close and with the support of a terrific supervisor, I never missed spending a major holiday with the Stewart clan throughout my illustrious five year career, despite my $300 bi-weekly paychecks. But my fellow servicemembers, whose hometowns were much further away were not so lucky. It was not uncommon to know a few folks who, not being able to afford the expensive airfare, planned on spending some or all of the major holidays -- Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years -- alone in the dormitory. Sure, a few of them would get invited by friends or co-workers, but it just wasn't the same as spending the holidays with your family.
Four years after I separated from the Air Force, our nation was rocked by the attacks of September 11th, and for the first time in a long time our nation really came to appreciate the protection and freedoms our military safeguards for us here at home. Not too far removed from my junior enlisted days, I remember what it was like to be overworked, underpaid and underappreciated. So it was December of that year, as the holiday season rolled around, that I decided to see if I could drum up some cash from my mailing list folks and perhaps purchase a few plane tickets for young military members to fly home to be with their families for Christmas. What I expected to be a couple thousand dollars and a couple of tickets, turned into almost $14k in donations and 13 flights for folks who would otherwise not be able to afford airfare home. And thus, and annual tradition of Let's Bring Em Home was born.
I couple of days ago I walked through the front doors of a Big Box Retailer and almost ran face first into a pallet of green light bulbs that had been unceremoniously plopped in the middle of the entranceway. Dafuq? At first I thought they must be some leftover stock from Halloween, or perhaps I was only seeing half of a red and green Christmas offering. It wasn't until a couple of days later when I saw a television commercial for Big Box Retailer, telling people how they can show their support for our military by installing one of these green bulbs on Veteran's Day. That immediately pissed me off to no end. In fact, I distinctly remember feeling the exact same anger I felt right after 9/11, when every swinging dick with a trunk lid was buying a yellow magnet that read I SUPPORT THE TROOPS. Look. I congratulate and appreciate you thinking of our military, but the truth is these yellow magnets and green bulbs are a hollow gesture that only serves to put a few bucks into the retailer's pocket. It is just as meaningless as "LIKE AND SHARE THIS POST IF YOU SUPPORT OUR TROOPS" -- what the hell does liking and sharing a post do to support the guy whose boots are on the ground? Answer? Not a damned thing.
And so as the leaves fall from the trees and it seems everything we eat or drink is violated by pumpkin spice, we find ourselves at the one time a year where I ask you to set aside all of our differences -- especially political ones -- and come together to give heartfelt thanks to those who still put on the uniform each and every morning. So if you want to directly support the troops and think a few dollars is the best way to do it, I've got a terrific idea for you. Instead of some silly light bulb or a Chinese-made sticker, send that money over to LBEH where Kat, Bibi and I will put that money to much more practical use. We will pool it all together and buy plane tickets for a young patriot, fresh out of high school and away from home for the first time in their lives, so they can spend Christmas morning among their family instead of alone in a military dormitory, looking out of the window at a sea of silly green light bulbs.
So this was it. This was my big sales pitch this year. If you like what we do here at EHOWA and find some value in the site, I ask that you reach into your piggy bank and toss a few bucks our way. If you can only afford $5, then please send $5. If you can afford to send more, then by all means I implore you do so because LBEH exists exclusively on donations. As always, your donations are 100% tax deductible, as Let's Bring Em Home is a 501(c)(3) charity. And unlike the big multi-million dollar "charities" whose CEO enjoys a $375,000 salary, all of us here at LBEH are strictly unpaid volunteers, so after some unavoidable administrative costs (PO box, bank fees, accounting fees, utilities, postage, etc) roughly $0.95 of every $1.00 donated goes directly to airfare for the troops.
Okay guys and gals, LET'S BRING EM HOME!