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. 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.