Have we lost our way on Veterans Day? A plea for business community to do more

Today’s the day we celebrate Veterans Day. Or is it tomorrow – the actual day that has been set aside? Or maybe even Monday?

Then again, you might ask, does it really matter – as long as we get some type of three-day weekend?

Is that what Veterans Day has become?

Veterans Day was established on Nov. 11 more than 100 years ago (in 1919, by President Wilson). It was known as Armistice Day then – a day of remembrance to mark the one-year anniversary of the end of World War 1 (which was formally ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918).

In 1926, Congress passed a formal resolution creating the day. In 1954, the resolution was amended to make it Veterans Day, celebrating all veterans. Somewhere along the line, we lost our way on this holiday.

Don’t misunderstand: At ROI-NJ, we’re flooded with press releases about all the companies who are making some sort of donation to honor veterans. And we salute them all (some of which are noted on this site). After all, any help is help.

But then we run stories such as the one we had Thursday – about the Food Warriors, the program started by Navy veteran and American Legion chaplain Micheal Schaffer at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst after he was stunned to learned that one-quarter of active-duty military personnel in this country were food insecure.

Who isn’t stunned? It means we’re not properly feeding the families of our soldiers.

Donate here if you want to help – and ask yourself the impact the N.J. business community could have on this program?

More than anything, ask yourself this question: Why isn’t everyday Veterans Day? Why aren’t we doing more to help those who serve?

Simply saying, ‘Thank you for your service,’ isn’t enough.

Laws aren’t enough either – especially if they are not enforced.

Ask the leaders of the N.J. State Veterans Chamber of Commerce (CEO Jeff Cantor and President Francisco Cortes) about the 3% set-aside law for disabled veteran businesses by contracting state agencies.

To date, this set aside has not been rigorously enforced, they will say. This has left the noble goal of leveling the playing field for DVOBs an unfulfilled intention for the state.

It hasn’t stopped groups, companies and individuals from stepping up.

Developers Jack Morris and Deb Tantleff both have been cited on this site previously for producing units aimed at housing veterans.

And we’ve noted the work of Bridging the Gap, a Veterans hiring task force (Learn more here), and P3, Private Public Partnership, organized by the U.S. Army Reserve to place veterans in the workforce (Learn more here.) These are just two of many organizations looking to place veterans in careers.

This, of course, is where the business community can do the most good. Donations are nice. And impactful. Jobs are everything.

I’ve been honored to spend time with Col. Jack Jacobs, a Medal of Honor recipient, at various outings over the year. I once asked him about companies hiring veterans. He’s obviously happy when they do, he said. He wishes more would.

And he hopes everyone will understand what it truly means.

“A lot of employers will tell you that they’re hiring veterans, but in the backs of their minds, they’re saying we’re hiring veterans because it’s charity, because we owe it to them – that’s wrong,” Jacobs once told me.

A veteran may be the best hire you make, he said.

“Nobody gets authority and responsibility at an early age more than veterans,” he said. “And these are people for whom giving a job is not charity. These are the best people you can find anywhere.”

That’s true every day of the year.