This chapter is a late edition to my business writings. Every couple of months I share a summary of a book chapter I hope to publish in the future. Each chapter is written to share my thoughts on real life experiences, and explain how they have helped to shape my business and life philosophy. This chapter is different. I am writing about a topic that I have no personal experience with, but that has helped shape our country and protected the freedoms we all enjoy.
Today, November 11th, is Veterans Day and I would like to dedicate this chapter to the men and women who have served our country with honor and dignity.
First, let me say thank you to all those who have served. I know that many of you reading this right now are veterans, and nearly everyone else reading this knows someone who has served in the US Armed Forces. To those who have served or are actively serving at the moment, let me again extend my deepest gratitude for your sacrifice in defending the American people. For many of us, we will never be asked to put our lives on the line for our country, and we all owe you a debt for assuming that responsibility for us. For those who have never served, I encourage you to reach out to a veteran or someone who is currently on active duty, and thank them for their service to us.
Regardless of political affiliation, it is important to note it is not the troops who decide to go to war—their responsibility is to protect and defend the American people when called upon. Over 1.1 million Americans have been killed while serving in the line of duty throughout American history, but they are not the only ones who have sacrificed. There are over 21.8 million U.S. veterans today, many of whom have been injured or disabled while serving. In addition there are over 50 million family members who have had to make sacrifices at home while their loved ones served our country. Currently, there are 1.4 million servicemen and women on active military duty. That is less than 0.5% of the U.S. population serving in the armed forces, assuming the responsibility so the remaining 99.5% of the population doesn’t have to.
Some of you may have been given the day off from work for Veterans Day. If so, take time to thank a veteran. Even though Veterans Day is a recognized federal holiday, only federal government offices and buildings are required to close for the day. Local and state governments have no such guidelines, and nongovernmental businesses are allowed to determine for themselves if they remain open.
Now, why am I bringing all this up?
It is to point out something I consider to be somewhat ironic or even hypocritical about the way Veterans Day is celebrated, and to challenge you to help me honor our veterans.
On a day celebrating and honoring veterans’ service, there is no process to assure that veterans actually get to observe the holiday. The only people guaranteed to not have to work are employees of the federal government. As of 2014, the federal government had 4,185,000 employees, 2,726,000 (~65%) of which are nonmilitary personnel. The remaining 1.4 million federal employees are uniformed military- many of whom will not get the day off work because they are stationed overseas or are on active duty. For a holiday that is dedicated to honoring and celebrating veterans, it seems bizarre to me that in practice, it is rarely the servicemen or women who get to celebrate and benefit from the holiday.
So this year I am implementing a new policy at SD Mayer & Associates, and for those of you who own or operate your own company, I would encourage you to do the same next year. We will give any employee who has served in the military the day off of work. To me, it only seems right that on the day honoring and recognizing their service as a whole, I offer some small, personal token of my immense gratitude. It isn’t much of a sacrifice when I consider they were willing and ready to give their lives to protect and defend us.
It is a moving reminder of what Americans have done in defending their country. I challenge you to watch this video and not have a tear in your eye. It is a truly great video, and I highly recommend it.
Please take a minute and forward this to family, friends and business owners. It is my hope that many of them will start the practice of giving their employees who are veterans the day off of work on Veterans Day.
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
–John Fitzgerald Kennedy
For more stories like this, please check out my book, The Toughest Guy I Ever Knew and Other Short Stories.