Armistice Day, now called Veterans’ Day, was once meant to celebrate peace. That’s a purpose most veterans would still support. From Danny Sjursen at antiwar.com:
It wasn’t supposed to be this way; wasn’t meant to be celebrated as such – as Veterans’ Day, that is. When the guns fell silent after more than four years of slaughter in the Great War – which consumed at least 9 million soldiers’ lives – in a widely celebrated, long-awaited armistice, veterans, and even many leaders, swore off war once and for all. Sure lots of the Wilsonian rhetoric of war “to end all wars,” was probably always hyperbolic and politically opportunistic. Nonetheless, it’s remarkable how many veterans and victims of that war truly believed it, were even dedicated to ensure this was so.
Thus, until the Second World War shattered those expectations, and governments around the world then waged near endless wars in the half century afterwards, the Americans, and other peoples celebrated the anniversary of the Great Wars’ end as Armistice Day. By it’s very nature, it was, then, imbued with meaning, with hopes, dreams, demands for a more peaceful future. Here in the U.S. those sentiments are long gone. Their morbid obituary America’s 19+ years of hopeless wars since 9/11. What we’re left with is a rebranded shell of a holiday: Veterans’ Day.
Blessed are the peacemakers. From Arnold Oliver at antiwar.com:
How in heck did Armistice Day become Veterans Day? Established by Congress in 1926 to “perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations, (and later) a day dedicated to the cause of world peace,” Armistice Day was widely recognized for almost 30 years. As part of that, many churches rang their bells on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – the hour in 1918 that the guns fell silent on the Western Front by which time 16 million had died in the horror of World War I.
To be blunt about it, in 1954 Armistice Day was hijacked by a militaristic US congress and renamed Veterans Day. Today few Americans understand the original purpose of Armistice Day, or even remember it. The message of peace seeking has been all but erased. Worst of all, Veterans Day has devolved into a hyper-nationalistic quasi-religious celebration of war and the putatively valiant warriors who wage it. We no longer have a national day to recognize or reflect upon international peace.
And the identification of warriors as heroes is pretty shaky too. If you are a veteran, and honest about it, you will admit that most of what goes on during wartime is decidedly unheroic, and actual heroes in war are very few and far between.
I have to tell you that when I was in Vietnam, I was no hero, and I did not witness a single act of heroism during the year I spent there, first as a U.S. Army private and then as a sergeant. Yes, there was heroism in the Vietnam War. On both sides of the conflict there were notable acts of self-sacrifice and bravery. Troops in my unit wondered how the North Vietnamese troops could persevere for years in the face of daunting US firepower. US medical corpsmen performed incredible acts of valor rescuing the wounded under fire.
But I also witnessed a considerable amount of bad behavior, some of it my own. Among US troops racism against any and all Vietnamese was endemic. There were countless incidents of disrespect and abuse of Vietnamese civilians, and a large number of truly awful war crimes. Most unheroic of all were the US military and civilian leaders who planned, orchestrated, and profited greatly from that utterly avoidable war. I should have taken action to resist the war while still on active duty, but I did not.
To continue reading: Bring Back Armistice Day and Honor the Real Heroes