Veterans Day is hard for me. I am not a veteran. I’m not close with very many veterans. And, I don’t believe we should be fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and all the other places around the world where we have troops active. But, I care very much for all the lives affected by war. So, the trouble with today is how to express that care without celebrating or glorifying war and militarism?
A simple “thank you for your service” feels hollow, it doesn’t feel genuine. Because, I don’t feel thankful for what my country is doing around the world with its military. I do, however, feel immense gratitude for people who are willing to serve their communities and countries, in large and small ways.
Some say that opposing the war on terror somehow suggests that those who have died fighting died for nothing. I myself have felt this, a heart-breaking sadness that young men and women have died senseless deaths for no good reason. I don’t believe that anymore, though the sadness is no less heart-breaking. I don’t believe soldiers have died fighting over there to protect my freedoms. I do believe that soldiers die, not for nothing, but rather for each other.
I don’t know how to make peace with all the lives lost to those caught in the middle. I don’t know how to make peace with the fact that our Congress refuses to do anything to bring this war on terror to an end. I don’t know how to make peace with the apathy of the American public, who largely seems to forget we are still at war. But, I make peace with Veterans Day by reflecting back to the original intent of creating a holiday on November 11th.
The cessation of hostilities of World War I officially ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. A year later, November 11th was declared Armistice Day in commemoration of that. The war to end all wars was over, and the world celebrated peace. President Woodrow Wilson stated, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”
On May 13, 1938, Armistice Day became an official holiday, “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.” In 1954, the name of the holiday was changed to Veterans Day to honor those who served in World War II and the war in Korea as well World War I.
Veterans For Peace states,
“Almost a hundred years ago the world celebrated peace as a universal principal. The first World War had just ended and nations mourning their dead collectively called for an end to all wars. Armistice Day was born and was designated as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated.”
After World War II, the U.S. Congress decided to rebrand November 11 as Veterans Day. Honoring the warrior quickly morphed into honoring the military and glorifying war. Armistice Day was flipped from a day for peace into a day for displays of militarism.”
In today’s world of never-ending conflict, it’s hard to imagine celebrating genuine world peace. But today, Veterans Day, to all who have served and are serving in the military, I pray you have a day of peace. For the world, I pray we find the courage to put a stop to the fighting.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com