Veterans’ Day

It’s Veterans Day. I am not a veteran so I’m not one of those being honored this day, but I am among those who desire to express my appreciation for their service. How to do that? Things have changed a lot over the years. Today used to be Armistice Day, and we celebrated the end of the war to end all wars making the world safe for democracy. It did not end all wars, but it did set into motion events that would, by the mid-twentieth century, prove the futility of wars for worldwide dominance. The cost of that enlightenment was enormous. The dead in the tens of millions whose humanity has been reduced to numbers that can only be estimated was accompanied by many more millions of lives challenged with physical and emotional wounds that never really healed. The veterans of those wars have more than earned the honor due them from a grateful nation.

Sadly, that did not end worldwide warring. War just took on new forms in new places. For America, our reasons for entering into armed conflict have become less and less clear. Politicians send troops into harm’s way for purposes that do not appear to have any clear connection to the standard shibboleths of keeping America safe or defending our freedom. Unfortunately, the ensuing national debate often ends up demonizing those who serve rather than the political leaders who engineer military engagements.

Another change has been in the nature of our armed forces themselves. The big wars of first half of the twentieth century, including Korea, were fought by draftees who did not choose to serve, and by enlistees who were often motivated by a patriotic morality. Now we are served by a professional military who have chosen to join as a career, to have a job, to get an education, for adventure, or to avoid getting into trouble.

None of that detracts from the steadfast courage of those who have served in our armed forces. Whatever their reasons, they have done their duty in the service of their nation, and for too many the cost has been high. What is the right way to say thanks? Airport greetings and welcome home dinners are nice, but often just decorations on a cardboard cake. How about if get really serious about a fully functional and efficient VA? How about if we get serious about job placement initiatives that lead to something other than stocking shelves at Wal-Mart? How about well staffed veterans’ centers on every public university campus? How about if we just learn to listen to them?

3 thoughts on “Veterans’ Day”

  1. I really enjoyed your posting. I have to admit that I forgot about Veteran's day since it is not even mentioned over here. So, thank you for the reminder and the message.

  2. In addition to you suggestions, how about if the military would be used for \”defense\” rather than aggression?There used to be a \”Department of War\” that was primarily involved in keeping our homeland from being overrun by enemies who actually had armies that were moving toward our land. Now there is a \”Department of Defense\” that seems to spend a lot of time exporting war to other countries. A few people in those countries might want to come here to hurt us, but most just want to live their lives without our soldiers occupying their lands.These comments are from a veteran of the U.S. Army who would have preferred not to have been drafted into service.

  3. About Geezer Dude's comment about the change of the War Department to the new name, Department of Defense, which sounds less aggressive. The change occurred under President Truman, at the time that the Air Force was separated from the Army (a change made by most countries long before WW II, by Britain with the RAF and Germany with the Luftwaffe \”Air Defense Force\”). Joining the Navy in met with more quiet resistance, as the Navy, here and in other countries, had a long independent and proud tradition, one still maintained, in spirit, by the Marines, formerly part of the Navy. Germany always called their army Wehrmacht (and still does), which just means \”Defense Force\”-not \”Attack Aggressive Force\”, even when it was overrunning other countries! Even the Germanic root word \”war\” meant only \”defense\” (Fr. guerre, Sp. guerra from the same Germanic root. Compare the related words \”warden\” and \”garden\”, \”ward\” and \”warranty\”=\”guarantee\”-all harmless and peaceful sounding). Mankind always loves euphemisms to cover their sanctioned violence. Actually, never to be admitted openly, humans love war, and that is why they glorify it, and repeat it, and call it \”fighting for freedom\”, \”defending our wives and children\”, etc. Gen. Robert E. Lee, once, surveying the horrific carnage of a Civil War battle, said,\”It is well that war is so terrible; else we should come to love it too much.\”

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