Peaceful Hopes For Veterans Day

Veterans Day has always provoked internal conflict for me. As an avowed peacenik who believes all war is immoral, today I honor the storied history of my family in arms.Β  My father and father-in-law served in World War II. My dad-in-law miraculously survived the largest sea battle in the Pacific. My uncle fought as a Marine in Korea and returned to his family a hardened man. My life-partner was in the first group of women officers (non-WAC) to be commissioned in the regular army. She left service at the rank of major to pursue her dream of becoming a physician. My cousin was yanked from his post riding and caring for ceremonial Army horses to invade Iraq in Operation Desert Storm. They all gained and gave aspects of themselves for their country. I am proud of their service, especially on this day.

America’s rush to solve conflict with weapons, the monies we spend on “defense”, the toll that war takes on the bodies and minds of soldiers and civilians, all trouble my soul. I have resolved my November 11th cognitive dissonance that occurs from pride in family and those who serve with my commitment to peace in this way: I emphasize the roots of the American holiday – world peace.

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, hostilities of World War I ceased. In November of 1919, President Wilson proclaimed the date as Armistice Day:

“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.”

Even a Congressional resolultion in 1926, which stopped short of making November 11 a national holiday, included this wording:

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations;

By 1938, November 11 became a legal holiday to commemorate those who fought in World War I and a day dedicated to world peace. In 1954, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day to honor all those who served or serve in the armed forces.

Our commitment to world peace as a country is not a priority. That does not mean I cannot devote time today to remember my commitment to peace while I thank my family members for their service.

11/11/1918 Philadelphia

My Dad, circa 1944

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13 thoughts on “Peaceful Hopes For Veterans Day

    • Thank you. I admire my family’s service. As a teen I would say that I couldn’t be in the military because saluting someone would make me laugh.

  1. I don’t “get” war. Maybe because I’m not power hungry? Regardless, I am glad that our society seems to now predominantly stand behind our members, past and present, of the armed services.

    • Our country certainly does a better job standing behind those who serve compared to the Vietnam era (my teen years). I still don’t get why we ignore the data on homeless vets and rates of mental illness in them though. Perhaps high risk folks are more likely to join. Perhaps the military likes very young ones with limited life skills. Perhaps our government doesn’t want to delve into what the military does to the minds of their soldiers.

  2. What a wonderful tribute to your loved ones, Jan!

    The “morning crew” that hangs out where I take Wally for paper-reading and breakfast are mostly WWII and Korean veterans. I’m not sure if I’ve ever acknowledged Veteran’s Day by thanking them before, but I did this morning. And then I listened to an hour of war stories. πŸ™‚ Not battle stories, but tales of travel and encampments and everyday life near the front lines. They seemed pleased to have an audience, and truly thrilled for their service to have been acknowledged. I’ve resolved to do more next year (fortune willing they’re all still here) to honor them on this day.

    • Based on my fathers’ and some experience listening to some Dutch who fought in WWII, those guys LOVE to tell stories. As a physician, I had some stories told to me by a patient that horrified me. He was a survivor of the Bataan Death March. We both cried.

    • I believe most of us are proud of our family, even if we disagree with governmental policies. I’m so glad there were no male relatives who were conscripted during the Vietnam era. Every one was a volunteer.

  3. I am in complete agreement. Our neighbors who had a daughter in the Marines were a bit prickley over my wreath shaped like a peace symbol until I listed off all of the members of my family who have served. Being a proponant of peace does not preclude the support of those who serve. It just means we prefer other means to solve problems around the world.

    • My Dad and I are in agreement about war being immoral, even though he enlisted in WWII. He felt an obligation to defend the country. I asked him once what he would have done if I had been a son and been drafted for Vietnam – he told me that he would bought me a bus ticket to Canada!

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