Today, Nov. 11, 2021 is Veterans Day. A day to honor all veterans; honoring and respecting them every day is an even better attitude. A lot of people think it’s “Veteran’s Day” or “Veterans’ Day,” but they’re wrong. The holiday is not a day that “belongs” to one veteran or multiple veterans, which is what an apostrophe implies. It’s a day for honoring all veterans — so no apostrophe needed.
Veterans Day gives Americans the opportunity to celebrate the bravery and sacrifice of all United States veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that most Americans confuse this holiday with Memorial Day. What’s more, some Americans don’t know why we commemorate our veterans on Nov. 11. It’s important that all Americans know the history of Veterans Day so that we can honor our former service members properly. To all my brothers and sisters in arms, Welcome Home!
This year, we are also honoring the 30th anniversary of the start of the Persian Gulf War. Operation Desert Storm was a military operation in the Persian Gulf War; many people think that it was a separate war.
The Gulf War was a war waged by coalition forces from 35 nations led by the United States against Iraq in response to Iraq’s invasion and annexation of Kuwait arising from oil pricing and production disputes.
On Aug. 2, 1990, the Iraqi Army invaded and occupied Kuwait, which was met with international condemnation and brought immediate economic sanctions against Iraq by members of the UN Security Council. United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President George H. W. Bush deployed forces into Saudi Arabia and urged other countries to send their own forces to the scene. An array of nations joined the coalition, forming the largest military alliance since World War II. Most of the coalition’s military forces were from the United States, with Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Egypt as leading contributors, in that order. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia paid around $32 billion of the $60 billion spent by the United States.
The initial conflict to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait began with an aerial and naval bombardment on Jan. 17, 1991, that continued for five weeks. During this period, Iraq launched Scud missiles against coalition targets in Saudi Arabia and Israel in an attempt to provoke a coalition-jeopardizing Israeli response, which failed to materialize. This was followed by a ground assault by coalition forces on Feb. 24. This was a decisive victory for the coalition forces that liberated Kuwait and advanced into Iraqi territory. The coalition ceased its advance and declared a ceasefire 100 hours after the ground campaign started. Aerial and ground combat was confined to Iraq, Kuwait, and areas on Saudi Arabia’s border.
The Gulf War began with an extensive aerial bombing campaign on Jan.16, 1991. For 42 consecutive days and nights, the coalition forces subjected Iraq to one of the most intensive air bombardments in military history. The coalition flew over 100,000 sorties, dropping 88,500 tons of bombs, which widely destroyed military and civilian infrastructure.
A day after the deadline set in United Nations Security Council Resolution 678, the coalition launched a massive air campaign, which began the general offensive codenamed Operation Desert Storm. The priority was the destruction of Iraq’s Air Force and anti-aircraft facilities. The sorties were launched mostly from Saudi Arabia and the six carrier battle groups (CVBG) in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea.
The next targets were command and communication facilities. Saddam Hussein had closely micromanaged Iraqi forces in the Iran–Iraq War and initiative at lower levels was discouraged. Coalition planners hoped that Iraqi resistance would quickly collapse if deprived of command and control.
The air campaign’s third and largest phase targeted military targets throughout Iraq and Kuwait: Scud missile launchers, weapons research facilities, and naval forces. About a third of the coalition’s air power was devoted to attacking Scuds, some of which were on trucks and therefore difficult to locate. The United States and British special operations forces had been covertly inserted into western Iraq to aid in the search for and destruction of Scuds.
Iraqi anti-aircraft defenses, including man-portable air-defense systems, were surprisingly ineffective against enemy aircraft, and the coalition suffered only 75 aircraft losses in over 100,000 sorties, 44 of them due to Iraqi action.
Establishment of Veterans Day
World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” — officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. Fighting had ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “The War to End All Wars.”
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed No. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “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, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”
The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings, and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m.
The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:
“Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.”
An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal federal holiday — a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I. In 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the United States’ history, and after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, Nov. 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
Veterans Day continues to be observed on Nov. 11 regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to Nov. 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
Harold B. Wolford is president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1095. He served in the United States Army from 1970 to 1973.