While November is known for turkeys and family gatherings, this month is also known for another special holiday — Veterans Day.
According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, the history of Veterans Day dates back to the end of World War I. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, a ceasefire took place between the Allied Powers and Germany, which then regarded November 11 as the end of “the war to end all wars”. While the day still holds this historical significance, the attention has now shifted towards celebrating America’s veterans for their patriotism and sacrifice.
Eden Milian served for 20 years in the Army and is currently a full-time student at Baylor University. To many veterans, such as Milian, Veterans Day is a day to let all veterans know that they’re still appreciated and valued, even when they’re not in uniform.
“Veteran’s Day is a day to acknowledge all those people who have served and to let them know that they’re important and that we still remember them,” Milian said. “Just because you’re out doesn’t mean that you’re forgotten.”
Although valued, for many veterans, transitioning out of an active duty-role can be difficult, and having to navigate civilian life — such as finding housing, education, resources and even a job — may seem impossible. According to the NAAV Veterans Statistics for 2023, out of the 16.5 million recorded veterans in the United States, 11.9 million have disabilities, a recorded 2.1 million have mental health issues, and over 40,000 recorded veterans are experiencing homelessness or living without secure accommodation.
Meagan Noranbrock is a Baylor alumna and Army veteran who works at the Waco Veterans’ One Stop — an all-inclusive facility that aims to provide resources, counseling services, case management, disability claims, peer groups, recreational activities and overall support to local veterans. As someone who closely works with veterans, Noranbrock understands how daunting this can be.
“That’s where a lot of problems come in, honestly, with that transition from military life to civilian life,” Noranbrock said. “For some, it’s easy, but for others, it isn’t. You have that military mindset drilled into you all day every day. ‘I will always place the mission first.’ ‘I will never accept defeat.’ And then to one day wake up and not have that be your driving force and being surrounded by people who have not had that mindset either, it can be jarring.”
Veterans of Baylor president and Marine Corps veteran Caroline Burten also sees this. Burten notes that the loss of camaraderie when on duty, the loss of a second family, can be disheartening.
“Even when you aren’t deployed, you’re training or working long hours and supporting each other,” Burten said. “Then we get out and it’s every man for themselves. Your coworkers or classmates don’t understand and suddenly you feel very alone in the world. Your sense of humor isn’t understood, your language is different, you’re more sensitive to some things and less sensitive to others and people look at you like you’re crazy. Your family knows you’re different, but they don’t know why, and they worry. It’s a little bit like Stockholm syndrome for some, others will claim they miss the monkeys but not the circus. It’s different for each of us, but I don’t think the transition is ever easy.”
So how can veterans navigate this? Well, luckily, Waco offers a great deal of resources to help, such as war veteran service organizations like Texas Veterans of Foreign War and American Legion posts, military family support organizations such as Blue Star Mothers of Texas, and academic services like Baylor University Vets.
Along with resources, Waco itself goes all out for the holiday. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Waco Veterans Day Parade. The parade begins at 11 a.m. and will start at 13th St. on Austin Ave. and end on 3rd St. Afterwards, there will be music, food and activities for all to enjoy, as well as a free lunch that will be served at the Veterans One Stop. Celebrations such as this strike a chord with Burten, due to how many reacted to military personnel and veterans in the past.
“When our troops came back from Vietnam, they were spat on and booed. These young Americans, some of which who didn’t even choose to go but were forced, who had to see and do terrible things just to stay alive, some of whom hated themselves, were not supported,” Burten said. “I think Veterans Day is a way to make sure that never happens again. A way to ensure that the cost of our freedom is not forgotten.”
Besides parades, there are also plenty of other ways to support or celebrate veterans. Such as writing a card to one, volunteering at your local VA center or even just having a simple conversation.
“If you have the opportunity, just ask a veteran ‘What was your time like?’ ‘What did you do?’ Get connected.” Noronbrock said. “It’s a great way to hear people’s stories, see what they’ve been through and hear personal experiences. It goes way further than any history book will ever teach you. It’s just a great way to also pay respect to the people that fought for our freedom.”
All in all, take the time to celebrate a veteran near or far, this coming holiday. Happy Veterans Day Waco!