The Octogenarian: don’t forget the Vets on Veterans Day
In elementary school, back in my day, on Nov. 11 at exactly 11 a.m., my entire school stood for a minute of silent reflection to commemorate the end of hostilities in World War I. It was also referred to as the “war to end all wars,” but of course, we were wrong about that.
When I was 10 years old, we experienced the start of World War II.
Armistice Day was primarily set aside to honor veterans of World War I. But in 1954, after World War II and after American forces had fought in Korea, Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by replacing “armistice” with the word “veterans.”
With the approval of this legislation, on June 1, 1954, Nov. 11 became a day to honor the American Veterans of all wars.
Later that same year, on Oct. 8, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first “Veteran’s Day Proclamation” which said that in order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans’ organizations and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose.
In between these two acts of collaborating congresses, there was another veteran’s action that is appropriate to be looked at today.
When I was a boy, we were experiencing the Great Depression.
The Depression did not actually end until 1944 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the GI Bill.
It was originally created to help veterans of World War II by establishing hospitals, creating low-interest mortgages and granting stipends to cover tuition and expenses for veterans attending college or trade schools.
From 1944 to 1949, nearly nine million veterans received close to $4 billion from the bill’s unemployment compensation program.
The education and training provisions existed until 1956.
I started my long college career under this part of the GI Bill. The Veterans’ Administration offered insured loans until 1962.
The Readjustment Benefits Act of 1966 extended these benefits to all veterans of the armed forces, including those who served during peacetime.
But what the GI Bill actually cause was the creation of the great American middle class.
Both Republicans and Democrats acknowledge that we are losing our middle class.
Yet the GI Bill is the blueprint for the re-creation of this economic group to our society.
Unfortunately, no one has the guts to propose what is necessary to bring the middle class back.
In an ideal world, the U.S. would be a nation with health care for all, a population educated through free education from pre-K through grade 16 and adequate leave time for family emergencies.
If we are going to revert, let’s stop the rush back to the 1930s and put the brakes on in the 1960s.
I’ve lived in both eras, and I can tell you the 1960s were a lot better.
In the meantime, remember to shake the hand of a veteran today.
Opinion columnist Ken Levin is a political science senior and may be reached at [email protected]