We have a long list of holidays in the United States, so many in fact that over the years people have come to consider the majority of them simply another day of the week and often confuse their true meaning. The most commonly misunderstood holidays are Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

When considering our freedom, Veterans Day is one of the most important days in our year. But odds are very few people actually celebrate anything on this day. I’ve heard some say that because we have Memorial Day, a time to honor those who have died in the service of our country, that Veterans Day isn’t necessary and merely gives people another day off from work. As a retired veteran, I disagree; I believe Veterans Day is significant in our country’s history and future and should receive more emphasis.

To gain a better understanding and appreciation for Veterans Day, let’s take a deeper look into the meaning of freedom and a few of the reasons we need to care about holidays such as this one. For example, there are nearly 24 million veterans living in the United States. More than 1 million of them are females. I believe it’s important to mention that almost 38 million military spouses and dependent children comprise our population and their support is critical to those who served or are serving today.

There are more than 1 million vets with disabilities, and about a quarter of a million veterans are homeless and living on the streets of the country. These men and women served to ensure our continued freedom. Mental health-related issues such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression and other psychological issues affect approximately 5 million vets. It should be apparent from these statistics that not all service related injuries are physical and certainly not visually evident to casual observers. Death is the ultimate sacrifice, but many service connected illnesses and injuries linger throughout a veteran’s life.

Veterans, all of them, have made at least one sacrifice. They chose to serve. Today we don’t have a draft and the force is comprised of volunteers, but some of us recall receiving a letter from the Selective Service office listing a number indicating our odds for being called. Higher numbers were less likely to be invited to “come on down;” my number was 17.

There’s an assumption that the Selective Service is no longer functional and no one is required to register; that’s false. Almost all male citizens and aliens living in the U.S. who are between the ages of 18-25 are required to register with the Selective Service. Because Congress has not initiated a draft today, those registered will not automatically be inducted into the military. Should Congress deem a draft essential to national security, those called to duty would be selected via a random lottery number and year of birth. The criterion for actually entering the service during a draft becomes somewhat more complex.

During this week of Veterans Day, take a few moments to reflect on what freedom means to you and consider the true meaning of this holiday, recognition of all Americans who served in the U.S. military, both during wartime and peacetime.

Thank you to all veterans who served and to those who are serving today.

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