Were it not for the significance of this date, I might be writing about the mathematics of this day. But on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, at the 11th hour, the firing stopped to conclude World War I. I have previously posted what my grandfather, then a Captain in the U. S. Army and stationed in France, wrote in his diary on this day – see “My Grandfather’s Diary entry for this day, 11 November 1918“.
As readers of this blog know, I am the son of an Air Force officer and the grandson of an Army officer. I was raised with the understanding that there was honor in service. But I have always wondered if others feel the same way, especially those who have the power and the ability to do something about it.
I am not quite sure what we as a society think of this day. We tend to glorify combat and we elevate the concept of being a soldier to almost heroic and mythical standards. Yet, when a soldier has completed his or her tour of duty, we as a society tend to ignore them. The recent revelations coming out of Dover, Delaware, speak to the lack of regard we have for those who served and died in service to this country.
When politicians speak of the military, it is often done in glowing terms but it is also done with an eye to the military-industrial complex that dominates this country. Every politician (left or right) speaks for a strong defense but the money they spend goes to the bureaucracy and the companies that build our multi-billion dollar weapons systems. Very little of the money spent on defense these days goes to those who must use the weapons systems; very little money goes to support the veterans after they have completed their service. In fact, when monies are cut from the Defense Department budget, it is often cut first from the Veterans Administration. We have passed laws that say that a veteran, called to active duty, can have their job back when they have completed their tour of duty. Yet many veterans are unemployed and homeless; is that how we say thank you?
My grandfather’s diary gave me insight into the First World War. It allowed me to look at what happened there. The armistice that was declared on 11/11/1918 only meant that the shooting stopped. When the politicians were done, the seeds for the Second World War were planted.
We have been fighting a war in Iraq and Afghanistan for over ten years now. Yes, the troops in Iraq will all be home by Christmas but that doesn’t mean that when the New Year starts they all won’t be sent to Afghanistan. Or we will find some other war to fight.
No matter what anyone says, peace can never come from the barrel of a gun,. The monies that we spend on war are destroying the economy of this country and yet we are willing to keep spending money we don’t have. And yet we will not cut the funding for wars that cannot be won. If we want peace, we must work for peace, not simply fight on in hopes of victory.
Today, this is a national holiday. Banks and schools are closed, there will be no mail delivered and many government offices will be closed. But the stores are open and there are sales and bargains galore. Against that backdrop, I hope that you will pause and think about what today really is about. I hope that you will honor those who have served this country, no matter where or no matter when, by making sure that their service and sacrifice was not in vain. I hope you will work to make sure that peace is that standard by which we live and that all have sufficient food, housing, and medical coverage.