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Veterans Day: Honoring heroes

Airmen from MacDill Air Force Base Fla., stand at parade rest during a retreat ceremony Aug. 22, 2017. Retreat ceremonies serve as a signal for the end of the official duty day as well as a way to pay respect to the flag.

Airmen from MacDill Air Force Base Fla., stand at parade rest during a retreat ceremony Aug. 22, 2017. Retreat ceremonies serve as a signal for the end of the official duty day as well as a way to pay respect to the flag. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Caleb Nunez)

U.S. Air Force Col. Troy Pananon, the 6th Air Mobility Wing vice commander, shakes the hand of a Vietnam veteran Oct. 30, 2017, during the Vietnam Veterans Commemoration event held at the Bryan Glazier Family Jewish Community Center in Tampa, Fla. The veterans received a service lapel as well as a certificate to honor and highlight their service during the Vietnam War.

U.S. Air Force Col. Troy Pananon, the 6th Air Mobility Wing vice commander, shakes the hand of a Vietnam veteran Oct. 30, 2017, during the Vietnam Veterans Commemoration event held at the Bryan Glazier Family Jewish Community Center in Tampa, Fla. The veterans received a service lapel as well as a certificate to honor and highlight their service during the Vietnam War. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Nunez)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

For many people, Veterans Day means an extra day off from school or work. Some might say this day is about honoring those who served our country. While this is true, rarely do we pause to think about the history and significance behind these words.

MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, will host a retreat ceremony at 2 p.m. Nov. 9, 2017, at the base flag pole to pay respect to the veterans of the armed forces.

Veterans Day is a U.S. holiday dedicated to thank and acknowledge the service of the men and women of our armed forces, which originated after World War I.

“Even though the United States was only involved in World War I for basically a year, we lost about 53,000 service members,” said Stephen Ove, the wing historian assigned to the 6th Air Mobility Wing. “At the end of this huge loss of life, Americans looked for an opportunity to commemorate the sacrifice and service of those who served in that war.”

Although “The Great War” didn’t officially end until the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, an armistice, or temporary cease-fire, was declared on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Thus, November 11th, initially established as Armistice Day, is generally regarded as the end of World War I as well as the ideal day to honor the soldiers who served during that time.

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory,” proclaimed President Woodrow Wilson on the first Armistice Day in Nov. 11, 1919.

The day remained observed as Armistice Day until the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, when veterans urged the U.S. Congress to change the word “armistice” to “veterans” as a way to honor all those who served in the subsequent wars.

“World War II came around and it ended up being a larger conflict than the ‘war to end all wars,’” said Ove. “The term Armistice Day was then rebranded to Veterans Day as a more appropriate way to show gratitude to all service members during times of peace and war.”

Veterans Day is often times observed through parades, ceremonial services, American flags flying at half-staff, as well as a moment of silence, among other proceedings. While Veterans Day may sound similar to Memorial Day, there is one slight, but important, difference between the two holidays.

“While both honor our military personnel, Memorial Day is a day to pay respect to the service members who lost their lives as a result of combat,” said Ove. “On the other hand, Veterans Day pays tribute to those who served at any time during peace or war, living or dead.”

As long as there are heroes willing to put their lives at risk for our safety, there will be people to remember and honor their sacrifices. While many would agree the extra holiday is always welcomed, the day should be spent recognizing the commitment and valor of the armed forces.