On November 11, American celebrate Veterans Day. The federal holiday honors the brave men and women of the armed forces who risk their lives to protect our freedom. They include members of the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, National Guard, Air Force, and the Coast Guard.
There is often confusion between Veterans Day and Memorial Day, which is celebrated on the last Monday of May. Although both honor our military personnel, Memorial Day, is set aside to remember and pay tribute to those that died while in military service or from an injury or illness sustained while in military service. On the other hand, Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans during war or peace. The primary purpose of this day is to thank the living veterans for their bravery and contribution to our national security.
The holiday, formerly known as Armistice Day, was first celebrated on November 11, 1919, to honor World War I soldiers. The date was selected because major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when the Allied Nations and Germany reached a cease-fire, or Armistice, which led to the end of the ‘Great War,’ as it often called. This day coincides with similar holidays celebrated in other countries, where it is still often referred to as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. The U.S. holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 as a day of tribute so that all military personnel could be honored.
Today there are approximately 23.2 million military veterans in the United States. The brave men and women who have served and protected the U.S. come from all walks of life. They may be children, parents, or grandparents. They are friends, neighbors and co-workers, and all are an important part of our communities.
Recently LP Magazine spoke with several military veterans that today serve as our friends and colleagues in loss prevention to get their perspectives on their military service, to include:
- Stacie Bearden, Director of Asset Protection Field Operations at The Home Depot; who served as a Lieutenant Colonel with the United States Marine Corps
- Gary Smith, LPC Senior Director Asset Protection at Walmart; who was a Deputy Financial Services Officer and Student Navigator in the United States Air Force
- Brand L. Elverston, Director, Asset Protection Strategic Initiatives at Walmart; a former Field Artillery Officer in the U.S. Army
- Kevin E. Lynch, LPC Executive Director of Business Development for Tyco Integrated Security; who served as an Executive Officer, USS AFFRAY in the United States Navy
- John Selevitch, Digital Editor at Loss Prevention Magazine; who was a Sergeant in the United States Air Force
How did serving in the military change your perspective on life and what it’s like to live in this country?
Bearden: My dad was in the military, so I was raised in a patriotic home. Serving in the Marine Corps allowed me to personally see the sacrifice our service men and women make to preserve what is viewed as free – our basic rights and our civil liberties. We have the right to disagree and articulate our points of view because someone defended that right with their life, in many cases. That’s humbling. It also allowed me to see the world. While there are a lot of countries I love to visit, there is only one I love to return home to – the USA.
Smith: It really gave me a greater appreciation of what our governing principles are and the freedoms that our military fight for at home and abroad.
Elverston: Military service instills a strong sense of loyalty to something much greater than self. It provides a prominent and durable sense of perspective. There is no greater honor than to serve in the uniformed services. Even with all our nuances, this is the greatest country on earth in strict terms of decency, compassion, and character. I’ve been to many other countries and experienced many other cultures and there is nothing like the United States.
Lynch: The military gave me a great perspective on what we have as Americans and the understanding of what is at stake in protecting it. It gave me an unbelievable insight into the concept of teamwork and accomplishing a goal as a unit.
Selevitch: I quickly learned that you can’t go it alone, you need to have a team and work together to achieve your goals. This has become more clear during this election season. Divisiveness is not going to help our country…it really does take people working together, not against each other.
What is the most misunderstood aspect of serving your country and being a veteran of the military?
Bearden: We talk a lot about sacrifice and pay homage to our veterans on key holidays. I think the magnitude of that sacrifice is misunderstood by many. While the benefits are good and tuition reimbursement opportunity is great, our junior enlisted are not highly compensated. Yet they voluntarily enlisted. Despite the pay and despite the risk, they stand that post on our behalf. It is truly humbling when you think about it.
Smith: In my opinion, although the work environment is very disciplined, it is not very different from the corporate world. Many of the core values of the military have bled over into corporations because they are relevant—Integrity, Service, and Excellence.
Elverston: Prior to 9/11, I’d say there were misconceptions and some devaluation of those in uniform but post 9/11 one can only say there is near universal respect and admiration for those who have sacrificed and committed their lives to a higher calling.
Lynch: The average American has NO CLUE about what kind of sacrifice a service man or woman has to make to defend our freedom. The time away from your family …the physical constraints and emotional strain are unbearable at times.
Selevitch: I think a lot of people see the military as an “employer of last resort’ for young men and women. My experience is quite the opposite. These are bright and talented men and women volunteers who are committed to serving their country.
What is the most difficult adjustment that military veterans must overcome when they return to civilian life?
Bearden: There is a command structure that translates well to some industries; it doesn’t translate to others. While they use different terms/acronyms there is so much that is easily transferrable. While they need to learn to speak the new language, we need to learn to help translate. There is too much to be gained from doing so – and too much to be lost from failing to.
Smith: In the workplace, I learned to never assume that all managers have been properly coached to be leaders of people. In my personal life, I learned to never assume that all citizens have a full understanding of what’s a “right” versus what’s a “privilege”.
Elverston: Distinctly different answers for those of us having serviced in combat and those whom have not. For those combat veterans, synthesizing those experiences and integrating back into civilian life is a huge personal challenge. Every combat veteran returns a different person – that’s an absolute. How that change is processed is what truly matters. For those not having served in combat, the biggest challenge was to understand not everything is precise and not everyone shares your deep sense of commitment.
Lynch: The realization that the general public does not understand the sacrifice you actually made being in the military…and the realization that here is a lack of leadership and empathy for the common man in corporate America.
Selevitch: Learning to stop waking up so damn early!
America made a huge choice this week as we elected a new president—and one that will have a lasting impact for many years to come. The weeks and months leading to this decision have been difficult—and at times divisive as we have worked our way through this time of change. But regardless of what side of that choice your personal beliefs may fall, we must never forget what a privilege it is to live in a country where we have the opportunity to make those choices. We live and work side-by-side with those that may share different opinions, and then show the strength and determination to work together to make this country the greatest on earth. It is because of these men and women that have so honorably served their country that all of us are granted this tremendous blessing.
On this Veterans Day, please join us in thanking all of those that have served and sacrificed so that all of us can enjoy the benefits and privileges of living in this great country.
This post was originally published in 2016 and was updated November 11, 2017.