Today, the 11th of November, is Veterans Day. It’s a day when we remember those who served in the United States Armed Forces and honor their enormous sacrifices. For one teenager, this means even more.
Rishi Sharma is a California-based teenager who is on a mission to meet and interview every remaining World War II veteran, most of whom are in their 90’s.
The youngster had a realization awhile ago that in order to help preserve history, he must quickly amass a collection of interviews. Thus far, it’s been a fairly extensive one.
Sharma grew up reading about World War II history and developed an admiration for the people involved: “I definitely retained my admiration and respect for those guys. There is so much you can learn from them.”
After realizing that the Library of Congress didn’t have an extensive collection of veterans’ interviews, he started his own website called Heroes of the Second World War.
The organization purports to “find veterans of WWII who saw combat” and film interview them, sending a copy to the Library of Congress where it can be archived.
Veterans Day is obviously a great time for everyone to remember the contributions and sacrifices made by their friends, family, and ancestors, but it’s even more important to keep them in the back of our minds year round.
The holiday was commemorated in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson on the first Armistice Day following World War I. This commemoration is celebrated with red poppy pins by Britons.
The occasion was called “Armistice Day” in the United States up until 1954, when it was changed to Veterans Day. The National Veterans Award was also created that year, with Congressman Rees of Kansas being its first recipient in Birmingham, Alabama.
Since Veterans is a federal holiday, many students and government workers are given the day off. As of 2011, around 21 percent of employers observe the holiday.
Mail deliveries don’t happen on this day either, even though all federal workers are paid for the holiday.
There have been requests to move Election Day into Veterans Day as essentially a merger of the two occasions. This would a) give voters the opportunity to go to the polls without having to skip work, and b) it would recognize the voting practice in general.
As we celebrate and remember, we also look to the future. After all, these are trying times in American life. But by observing our WWII veterans, maybe we can learn something about our own behavior.