The poppy was adopted as the official memorial flower of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1922.
One century ago today, history's bloodiest war to date ended after more than four years of slaughter. The Veterans Day holiday was conceived as Armistice Day to honor the 4.7 million Americans who served — and the 116,500 who died — in World War I, or what was then called the Great War.
The original specificity has a solemn meaning. It marks the armistice between World War I's Allied forces and Germany ending the fighting on the Western Front at precisely 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918.
Remembering Flanders Fields sacrifices: Perhaps the best-known commemoration of the lives lost during WWI is the poppy.
The flower, now seen on lapels worldwide every November, was immortalized in John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields."
In addition to expressing the immeasurable grief over the "row on row" of graves of soldiers who had died on Flanders' battlefields, the poem also notes our global commitment to peace through sacrifice in its closing stanza:
"To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields."
Expanded to honor all veterans: Armistice Day kept its name and focus until 1954, when the Nov. 11 commemoration was changed in the United States to Veterans Day and its scope widened to honor veterans from all eras.
Overall, World War I took around 16 million lives, out of some 35 million civilian and military casualties.
The last American veteran of that war died in 2011, but the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are almost 19 million living veterans nationwide, including 7,200 from between the world wars.
Veterans and VA spending growing: The largest ever Department of Veterans Affairs annual fiscal budget was signed into law on Sept. 21.
The fiscal 2019 VA budget was an increase of more than 6 percent that pushes the agency's total spending over the $200 billion mark for the first time.
The bill includes $1.1 billion for the start of a VA electronic health records overhaul and $400 million for opioid abuse prevention within the department.
That money is vital since, despite no longer having a draft, the number of U.S. men and women who serve at least some time in our armed forces continues to grow.
The latest official count by the Census, using American Community Survey data collected from 2009 to 2013, shows that Alaska had the highest proportion of its population who were veterans, at 13.8 percent. Puerto Rico, at 3.8 percent, reported the lowest proportion of veterans.
Here in Texas, we have almost 1.6 million veterans.
You can get a look at the veterans' population where you live via the Census' graphics for each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Veterans and taxes: Since this is a tax blog, I'm compelled to remind you that beyond tax dollars finally being spent on those who serve and sacrifice for us, there are other tax implications for veterans.
The most recent veterans' tax matter is the extended time period under which some combat veterans could file for refunds for disability severance payments under which they originally were shortchanged.
Those affected veterans need to file an amended tax return using to claim a disability severance payment-related credit or tax refund for the prior erroneously taxed payments.
Elsewhere in the tax code, there are several provisions that apply to veterans and current members of the military. They include:
- Donate directly to veterans' charities
- Special tax rules for military service men & women
- Don't overlook state tax breaks for military personnel
- Remembering veterans & helping smooth their return to civilian life
- A salute, shout out and checklist for U.S. veterans
- ETIC could help members of the military
- Tax help remains for military moves
Mostly though on this Nov. 11th, which earns this week's By the Numbers honor, take a moment to remember those, to borrow McCrae's words, who loved and were loved and now lie in Flanders fields and elsewhere.
My father was a veteran, serving in the Navy and Navy Reserve. Unfortunately, he's no longer around for me to personally salute on this Veterans Day.
But if your veterans thankfully made it home after serving for the United States of America and indeed the whole world, give them a huge hug for all of us.