As I plot where I can enjoy a free meal today or get 10% discount at Home Depot, let me first say thank you to all who are serving and all who have served in the military. People have enlisted for such a wide variety of reasons, but as soon as one week into that basic training, those reasons are at least temporarily lost. Serving your country, doing something honorable, obtaining some benefits… noble reasons or reasons some would see as shallow, not one of these motivations stays afloat through basic training. Being pushed physically, emotionally and spiritually as is customary in boot camp, one isn’t thinking about the future honors or college tuition benefits, because those two months are the pinnacle experience of living in the moment.
Basic training is that two month period in which one has to grow up. They were sworn in, then they got on a bus. (Oh, a fun party game: Ask any enlisted person from any era and any branch of the five armed services1 to tell you about that bus ride. Every one of them will tell nearly the same account.) So then they went through basic training and were assigned to units in the field, served or are still serving, to hopefully come home safe. Parents and spouses and siblings pray and try to not be anxious until then, often needing to find other things to put into their thoughts to keep them from constant worry.
These are not unlike the prayers of the wives of the fishermen who go out in deadly storms so their kids can have a warm bed, clothes and food. Some people choose a dangerous career because they like the thrill. Most old guard, salty fishermen, and most military soldiers, aviators and sailors, do it to do what is right.
I see a ton of Veterans Day posts on facebook. Many of those posts say Happy Veterans Day. Happy? For what should we be happy? As you may know, this holiday began as a day of thanksgiving because 93 years ago the United States thought she had just seen the end of the war to end all wars. It was a happiness defined by gratitude for the soldiers and sailors whose service had led to peace and justice, as the war to end all wars was then over.
November 11, 1918 is generally regarded as the end of the war to end all wars. 2
The day was initially known as Armistice Day. Armistice is a temporary cessation of battle, and that was the cause for happiness.
Armistice Day was proclaimed in November 1919 by President Wilson with these words: “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… “(emphasis added). 3
When the United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I, their resolution included the following whereas clause: “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…”
So what should we be doing today?
How about we do what the holiday was intended for us to do? Commemorate with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises which are designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations, so that we may even envision an end to all wars. So may it be.
note: I write this as a Gulf War Era veteran, with respect, and I want to perpetuate peace.
1 five armed services: Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, Marines