Why Celebrate Veterans Day?

Veterans day is a celebration of the courage, strength, heroism, and sacrifice of all soldiers. It honors their patriotism, love of country, and faithful service to the nation. This day commemorates and honors US military service, and the sacrifices that America’s service members and their families make. The Federal holiday falls on November 11th each year. Many schools and businesses observe Veterans Day by wearing red, white and blue ribbons or American flags.

If you want to make sure your child understands the importance of Veterans day, try having open dialogue about what it means, and then spend time helping them look for ways they can help others or thank veterans. For example, if your child is old enough, you could set up a service opportunity to offer the local VA hospital companionship on Veteran’s Day. Talking with your kids before Veteran’s Day can also affect their understanding.

There are many ancient civilizations, cultures and philosophies that have the same values as the western idea of Veterans. A hero is defined in various ways, but the most common way is as someone who has great courage and self-sacrifice, often putting themselves in harms way for the betterment of others. Ancient Africa provided several different identities that fulfilled this requirement and can be considered heroes because their actions and beliefs will stand the test of time as acts of heroism.  They are also examples of how the power of the individual can make a difference in changing history. These include Kano, who was an African woman (not to be confused with her great grandson who founded the Nigerian city named Kano), and Habib Bourguiba, former President of Tunisia, whose initiatives helped overthrow French colonialism in North Africa.

In Hindu culture all those who were born on a battlefield and died fighting for their God would be guaranteed a place in Heaven as it is considered to be a great honor to die fulfilling your dharma or calling. The children who lost family members in war also receive a special status as they are known as ‘children of sacrifice’. In Chinese philosophy there is respect for those who served others selflessly. Ancient Greece had a tradition called a Pythia which was a woman prophetess who used the power of prophecy.

The Greeks revered the heroic past. They idealized their primitive ancestors for bringing order to society, forming their constitution according to the laws established by the legendary King Theseus. The Homeric texts described heroes as defenders of their homeland, often fighting amid difficult circumstances. This passage from the Odyssey describes the heroism of the protagonist Odysseus after he walks through Hades. Achilles was lauded as a hero in both Greek mythology and, later, in classical literature. His life was already told shortly after it happened, with additional details added over the following centuries that have led to contradictions about his life. Nonetheless, at an early date, stories of Achilles became popular themes in art wherever something could be found to feed the legend.

Although Veteran’s Day has been a holiday for less than 70 years, people have understood the importance of celebrating  those who sacrifice their lives to protect them for thousands of years.  Many holiday traditions are the same today as they were in ancient times.  Our respect for our veterans and heroes does not end on Nov. 11th, but it’s a great way to start paying tribute to those who have served before us.

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