The Real Meaning of Veterans Day

Honor the warriors, not the wars.

By - Nov 9th, 2016 11:17 am
Armistice Day headline.

Armistice Day headline.

November 11, Veterans Day, is a day to honor all who have served in the US armed forces, whether in wartime or peacetime, at home or abroad. Veterans who wore the uniform in service of their country deserve that recognition.

But somehow the day has become more a celebration and display of militarism than a day to celebrate veterans.

That is especially unfortunate and ironic because the date was first observed as Armistice Day, a day to celebrate the end of World War I and promote world peace.

World War I, the “war to end all wars” ended on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Thirty-eight million, combatants and civilians, had been killed or wounded. The world was horrified by the carnage.

Congress responded to a hope among Americans for no more wars by passing a resolution calling on Armistice Day to be marked by “exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding.” Later, Congress added that November 11 was to be “a day dedicated to the cause of world peace.”

In 1954 Congress changed the name to Veterans Day, and in the years since it has morphed into a flag-waving display of patriotism that often seems to honor the military and war as much as it does those who served.

We don’t talk about veterans in these days of endless war; we call them warriors, as though every veteran were exposed to combat. But only a small percentage of our veterans have actually experienced combat. Even those deployed to a war zone are more likely to end up in supporting roles, not in battle.

That is not to take away anything from anyone who served. In fact, every man or woman who takes the oath and puts on a uniform is exposed to the potential that they will be asked to risk their life. Once they enlist, who gets what job or orders to deploy is beyond their control.

Vietnam Veterans Against the War has long had a slogan, “Honor the warrior, not the war.”

That is exactly what Veterans Day should do. It is not at all incompatible to honor veterans while promoting peace and an end to war as an instrument of foreign policy.

That is what Veterans for Peace has done since 1985, honoring veterans while educating the public about the true costs of war. Ironically, the organizers of Milwaukee’s Veterans Day parade have refused to allow the local Veterans for Peace chapter to take part in the parade. In Milwaukee, there is no place for peace on Veterans Day.

Veterans for Peace will observe Armistice Day with a program in the City Hall rotunda at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11. The public is welcome.

Bill Christofferson is a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam and a member of Milwaukee Chapter 102 of Veterans for Peace.

Categories: Op-Ed

3 thoughts on “Op-Ed: The Real Meaning of Veterans Day”

  1. Ron Friedel says:

    An old friend, now gone, said that he was in some sort of organization like Veterans for Peace shortly after WWII and Ronald Reagen was also a member.

  2. AG says:

    Isn’t this the group that always gets banned from parades and whatnot because they take events held to honor veterans and turn them into a political rally?

  3. Orville says:

    Thank You for the history lesson Bill. I appreciate your comments and agree with them.

    About 2 years ago I bought a couple of DVD’s and when I started to watch the first one which was about the Vietnam War, I initially heard a voice that sounded very familiar, shortly after that the video portion came on and it was clear the familiar voice was that of Bill Christofferson. He explained his time in Vietnam as a member of the Marine Corp.I can only imagine the horrors that young men like Bill experienced during their time in Vietnam.

    While we may not always agree on our political views, I do agree that war is a terrible, terrible thing that we should avoid at all costs.

    Thank You Bill

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