Veteran's Day is tomorrow, November 11th, 2007. I wanted to share some of my thoughts about this special day with you.
A short history of Veteran's Day (paraphrased from Department of Veterans Affairs website)
This special day has evolved over the years but it started as Armistice Day in celebration of the armistice at the end of World War I and to remember those who lost their lives fighting in "The Great War" . The armistice went into effect at the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918. (The actual treaty that ended WWI (Treaty of Versailles) wasn't signed for another seven months.) Unfortunately, the hope that WWI was "the war to end all wars", was not realized, and Armistice Day was changed by proclamation on June 1st, 1954 to be Veterans Day to recognize all those who had served in all of America's wars. This Veteran's Day Proclamation was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The Sense of the Meaning of Veteran's Day
There have been many folks attempt to interpret what Veteran's Day really means. However, one of the best comes right from the 1954 Proclamation (ibid):
"Whereas, in order to expand the significance of that commemoration and in order that a grateful Nation might pay appropriate homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much to the preservation of this Nation, the Congress, by an act approved June 1, 1954 (68 Stat. 168), changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day:
Now, Therefore, I, Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States of America, do hereby call upon all of our citizens to observe Thursday, November 11, 1954, as Veterans Day. On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain."
My Thoughts on Veteran's Day and Wars in General
We owe a debt of gratitude to all who have served the nation in the armed forces and auxiliary services, such as the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). There have been so many that have served our nation in our wars. There have been so many who lost their lives during our wars. Tomorrow, Veteran's Day, think of them. And while you are thinking of the veterans, think of their families. Such as those who in WWII sacrificed so much of their "normal" lives in order to support the war effort and their loved ones far away from home, fighting, and perhaps dying on battlefields around the world. The family members who served at home with no real insight into how the war was progressing or where their loved ones were.
Starting with the Vietnam War, there has been a tremendous increase in the flow of information from our battlefields. Today's families, have an overwhelming amount of information to sift through, hoping to learn how our wars are going, the well-being of their loved ones and perhaps to get a sense of when the wars will end. These are unenviable tasks for the families.
Recently in a Newsvine comment thread, several of us were discussing the Gettysburg National Park. I have visited Gettysburg several times and have always come away saddened by each visit. I realized later that this has been my experience with each military cemetery that I have been privileged to visit. From the American Cemetery and Memorial outside Hamm, Luxembourg, where General George S. Patton is buried along with more than 8,000 other soldiers, to Arlington National Cemetery where more than 300,000 people are buried, my feelings have been the same: Proud of all those who served and lost their lives in one of our many wars, proud to be associated in some small way with them and all surviving veterans, but foremost, deep, abiding sadness.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit one of the many military cemeteries or battlefields, such as Antietam, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, do not despair if you too feel a deep sadness. At Antiienam, the losses were of a singular magnitude.
"To view the magnitude of the losses, consider that Antietam resulted in nine times as many Americans killed or wounded (23,000 soldiers) as took place on June 6, 1944--D-day, the so-called "longest day" of World War II. Also consider that more soldiers were killed and wounded at the Battle of Antietam than the deaths of all Americans in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, and Spanish-American War combined."
Only the most insensitive among us will not be moved to sadness when they view "Bloody Lane" for the first time. For those not moved, I pity you.
Earlier, I mentioned the effect of wars on the families at home. This applies to all families, ours, our allies, even those of our enemies. Innocent civilians suffer and die in all wars. While stationed on Okinawa, I visited the cliffs where, during the WWII Battle for Okinawa, several hundred Okinawan civilians, men, women and children, committed suicide by throwing themselves off the cliffs onto the coral and rocks below. The Japanese military/government on Okinawa had sufficiently demonized the American soldiers, to make many Okinawans choose suicide over capture or surrender. The cliffs were an extremely sad place. Perhaps as many as 100,000, people died from the fire-bombing of Tokyo and as many as 200,000 more from the two atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII: most were civilians. Tens of thousands reportedly died in the Allied bombings of Dresden in 1945.
I do not bring up the suffering and deaths of the civilians of our allies and enemies to either bait or debate any who read this. I am also not trying to blur the focus of our Veteran's Day or diminish its significance. My point is simple: Many suffer and die in wars, not just our soldiers. So when you think of our veterans, especially the many thousands who were wounded or killed, also remember: War reaches far, and is indiscriminate in who it touches.
I appreciate your time in reading my ramblings.