In our lifetime, our country has seen some dark days, and yet some very bright hours. We've learned a lot about ourselves. It turns out that we don't just live in America, but rather that America also lives in us: "crowned with good through brotherhood." Although Thanksgiving is a day when we pause to give thanks for the things we have, Veterans Day, Nov. 11, is a day when we pause to give thanks for the people who fought for the things we have.
And just who are the brave men and women who serve and protect America? Some volunteered; others were drafted. They all learned how to go, and to fight, and to win. Presently, there are 23 million living military veterans in the U.S. Our nation's service men and women come from all walks of life. They are parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, spouses, nephews and nieces, and children. They are friends, neighbors and co-workers, and an extraordinary part of their communities.
Although we Americans often have our differences (especially during election seasons), we still join together in times of crises. So, is this a great country or what? Would you remember to take time out of this busy Nov. 11 to thank a veteran? If so, then "Three cheers for you ... and the Red, White, and Blue!"
Armistice Day intent
Growing up in a military family we observed Veterans Day. We thanked and honored our veterans for their sacrifices with patriotic parades. Later, I learned about Armistice Day, the forerunner of Veterans Day, and wondered about its roots in our country.
Armistice Day began Nov. 11, 1919. The president announced a day of mourning for the dead of World War I. Congress later adopted it as a national holiday. It joyfully celebrated the end of war and committed to ensuring peace and diplomacy among nations to prevent future military conflicts.
After the Korean War, the U.S. Congress rebranded Nov. 11 as Veterans Day. Honoring the warrior quickly morphed into honoring the military and glorifying war. Armistice Day was flipped from a day of peace into a day of displayed militarism.
Both days claim to honor our veterans and our country. But how we focus and what we honor matters. Shall we glorify war and killing? Or shall we honor one another and our humanity by choosing diplomacy first, to prevent war? Armistice Day focuses on prevention. It reflects on the cost and horrors of war rather than glorifying it.
We should honor one another when we live in peace with our neighbors. War should be a last resort to defend our great nation. This Armistice Day, let's remember the full cost of war: the loved ones lost while serving their country, the wars we waged despite no evidence that we were in danger, the innocent casualties of war, the veterans who battle post-traumatic stress disorder and the despair of job losses, homelessness and suicide. Perhaps we'll conclude that the message of Armistice Day and preventing future wars is the measure of true patriotism.
Jane Estes is chair of Arkansas Women's Actions for New Directions.