On Veterans Day not only do I salute my fellow Veterans, but also share a few thoughts on why we observe this day in the first place.
Veterans Day today offers Americans a chance not only to honor those who have served in the nation’s armed forces, but also to renew an effort started with the observance of the day in the first place – to celebrate peace.
When Nov. 11 became a holiday, it was known as Armistice Day, dedicated to all those who fought for the United States and to the memory of those who had died in battle. Its name honored the armistice that officially ended World War I. In fact, it was called Armistice Day until 1954, when the U.S. Congress enacted legislation to change it to the current designation.
Perhaps of greater interest than remembering veterans on this day, though, should be a remembrance of why Armistice Day seemed worthy of a holiday in the first place. It was to recognize peace in the world. Some of our World War I allies, including Canada, still adhere to that thought, recognizing Nov. 11 as “Remembrance Day.” They remember that on a cold muddy field on the border of Belgium and France near the dawn of the 20th Century one great army surrendered to another and began to observe peace instead of war. Peace had broken out and the silencing of the machines of war was just cause for celebration.
Nancy Boyd Turner, in her fine poem about the armistice, “Let Us Have Peace,” wrote:
“The Earth is weary of our foolish wars.
“Her hills and shores were shaped for lovely things.
“Yet, all our years are spent in bickerings
“beneath the astonished stars.”
The inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier reads that those who lie there dead will not have died in vain. It implies that we will remember and wholeheartedly strive for peace. The world has made that promise many times since the first “unknown” was laid to rest. But, each time, those who promised have forgotten.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – Arlington, VA
There are more than 20 million living veterans in this nation – men and women who took up arms in the hope that by doing so they and their children could forever embrace peace. As we observe Veterans Day, let us hope that this goal will not be forgotten once again. To strive for peace is a promise Americans ultimately should be making every year, not only when “observing” Veterans Day, but, indeed, when “celebrating” it.