“The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.”
The United States celebrates two important holidays in November. Thanksgiving springs to mind first, a day set aside to give thanks for our family, friends, and our good fortune. But we must also give thanks earlier in the month to those who have served in the United States Armed Forces. Veterans Day is celebrated annually on November 11th but it has an interesting history. It began as Armistice Day, a day to remember the peace agreement that was signed between the Allied powers and Germany the year before, ending World War I. President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation the following year 1919, declaring that a two-minute moment of silence was to be observed on November 11th at 11 AM. But unlike the official proclamations issued by sitting presidents on each subsequent November 11th, that original proclamation was not a government document and was published on November 11th in the The New York Times rather than in the official United States Statutes at Large. You can read the article in Falvey Library’s Historical New York Times ProQuest database.
In 1926, Congress took up the cause and passed a joint resolution calling for the observance of Armistice Day, asking the nation to commemorate what was the “cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far-reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed.” This resolution also called upon the President to issue a proclamation ordering all government buildings to display the United States flag on November 11th and to invite schools and churches to observe the day “with appropriate ceremonies.” While the president in office continued to issue proclamations recognizing Armistice Day each year, the flag was not ordered to be flown until 1936 when Franklin Roosevelt issued his annual proclamation. Two years later, Congress enacted Public Law 75-510 which declared November 11th of each year a public, legal holiday. In 1954 the name of the holiday was changed to Veteran’s Day to honor all veterans, not just those who served in the First World War (P.L. 83-380).
Many organizations in the Philadelphia Area provide legal services to active, reservist, and retired military personnel, offering attorneys a way to give back to those who are serving or have served our country not just on November 11th but all year round. The Philadelphia Bar Association provides pro bono services to deployed military personnel and veterans through its Military Assistance Program (MAP). The Military Assistance Project represents veterans on consumer law issues including bankruptcy and veterans benefits appeals and upgrades. The Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) Veteran’s Project is the only legal assistance program in Philadelphia that specifically targets homeless veterans. There is even a specialized court for veterans—the Philadelphia Veterans Court. This court is a collaboration between the District Attorney, the Public Defender, the Veterans Administration and numerous Veterans agencies all working to assess and provide services to veterans who find themselves involved in the criminal justice system in Philadelphia.
As mentioned in a previous blog post, military law is its own complex practice area. So too is the practice of Veterans Law. Members of the Villanova Law community have access to a number of Veterans Law materials if you’d like to learn more about this practice area:
- PBA pro bono seminar : making a difference 2014 (has chapters on many Pennsylvania Bar Association pro bono opportunities including veterans’ programs)
- Advanced issues before the Department of Veterans Affairs
- Advocating for Veterans: The Basics on VA Benefits, Discharge Upgrades and Veteran Cultural Competency (a PLI Plus database)
- Veterans Rights and Benefits (practice guide available on Westlaw)
- Many estate planning & elder law counseling handbooks offer chapters on handling veterans’ benefits such as Pennsylvania fiduciary guide : a handbook for executors and administrators or Veterans’ pension and aid & attendance benefits
There have also been a number of recent reports from the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs including From military service to small business owners : supporting America’s veteran entrepreneurs and VA whistleblowers : exposing inadequate service provided to veterans and ensuring appropriate accountability. Additional information including a list of other veterans’ organizations can be found on the Committee’s website.
To all of our veterans and their families–thank you for your service!