Honor America’s war dead by remembering all veterans
Fifty-one years ago, Memorial Day became an official national holiday. But it had been around much longer. Originally known as Decoration Day, its origins were in the wake of the Civil War.
General John Logan, leader of a northern Civil Way veterans’ organization, called for a nationwide of remembrance on May 30th, 1868. That day was selected because it wasn’t the anniversary of any battle. The purpose was to “strew flowers or decorate the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the war and “whose bodies were in almost every city, village, and churchyard.”
The Civil War’s dead were the original focus, but celebrations evolved to include all wars. Then to all who had died in military service. While those who made that ultimate sacrifice are the foundation of the observance, it’s also fitting that the modern observation’s offshoot is a fledgling precursor to Veteran’s Day by embracing all who have put on the uniform, raised their right hand, and took this oath:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the officers appointed over me, according to the regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So, help me God.”
The saturation of veterans here in our region of NE Tenn. and SW Va. is higher than the national average. According to the Census Bureau, veterans account for about 7% of the U.S. population. Locally, that number is 9.4%.
There’s a reason for that. We are home to one of the nation’s top VA healthcare systems. The region is rich in veteran-friendly communities and institutions that honor their service and commitment.
The most recent published count of local veterans was about 43,870. About is a necessary qualifier because the actual number is dynamic, and the largest number of local veterans have more road behind them than in front of them. When that most current count was taken, almost 24,000 local veterans were 65 and older.
Here’s how the local veteran population for the Greeneville, Johnson City, and Kingsport metro areas look by their service period.
Gulf War (2001 or later) – 6,501
Gulf War (1990-2001) – 7,642
Vietnam War – 17,504
Korean War – 3,626
World War II – 1,194
The number of veterans segmented by service period during a war is less than the region’s total vet population because there were eras when there wasn’t an active war.
Memorial Day’s national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time across the nation. Hundreds of local graves will be graced with American Flags, and there will be dignified and respectful observances. That’s the way it should be. And there’s nothing wrong with the evolving Memorial Day footnote that a fitting way to honor those who have paid the ultimate price for their county is to respect and honor commitments to all veterans. Commitments for everything from health care to education and housing benefits.
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