Once again, I'm trotting out an old nugget which I wrote several years ago. And, of course, several of you have already read this (although I updated a few items. See if you can find where!).
Unlike most of my usual pieces of literary offal, I'm playing this one straight (much like I do with my post on 9-11).
I'd say enjoy, but as long as you remember those who served in good times or in bad times, I'm good with that.
|"Okay, just so we're all in agreement, |
it was the Germans who started this whole thing.
You don't think this is gonna come back
and bite us on the ass, do you?"
Last joke. Serious stuff starts...now!
Despite the Christmas displays in Home Depot, it’s only now Veterans Day.
On November 11th, 1918, the Germans surrendered to the Allied powers in the Forest of Compiegne, ending what was then known as the Great War. Little did they know there would be a sequel nearly 21 years later.
But that’s another story.
The following November, President Woodrow Wilson declared that “Armistice Day” would henceforth be observed in honor of those who had fallen during the “war to end all wars” (kinda dropped the ball with THAT one, didn’t we?).
Following the Second World War (the “good” war, an oxymoron if there ever was one), the town of Emporia, Kansas changed “Armistice” to “Veterans” Day. The idea was to honor everyone who had served in the armed forces rather than only those who’d fought against the Kaiser.
As the years went by, the idea of setting aside a special day for veterans took hold throughout the nation. In 1954, Congress made the name change official while President Eisenhower called on all Americans to observe the day. But, surprisingly, it took until 1971 for Richard Nixon to declare it a federal holiday.
In the years since, it’s become little more than an excuse to hold blowout sales on everything from bed linen to used cars (“Buy this Chevy because Fred Bean knew Patton. Well, he saw the movie, anyway.”). Ceremonies marking the day have been lost in the madcap frenzy of pre-Christmas commercialism. In fact, what was once a universal day off has turned into pretty much a “federal government employees only” respite.
I don’t have a problem with this, per se, if it was still recognized for the somber event that it is. After all, Veterans Day is much more than sleeping in late and watching Sponge Bob Squarepants in your underpants while wolfing down a bowl of “Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs.”
Unfortunately, many people don’t even know what Veterans Day is all about. While working at a local school district on November 11th several years ago (actually, more like eight now), I was flabbergasted when the morning announcements proclaimed Veterans Day merely as a “day to recognize older people who had a lot of experience.”
What!? Now, I don’t wish to denigrate Grandpa’s fly-fishing prowess and, boy howdy, ain’t it cool that Great-Aunt Tilly can knit a quilt with her feet, but c’mon! Since when is bowling a perfect game the same as "advisor" duty in Iraq? Quick answer-it’s not.
As a result, I spent the balance of the day quizzing my students on whether they knew what put the “veteran” in Veterans Day. Sadly, I was depressed by their appalling lack of knowledge, as very few of them actually understood what all the fuss was about. But, you can bet your bottom dollar they knew when the sequel to “Harry Potter” was coming out or who won the last American Idol.
NOTE: Like I said, this was eight years ago.
Shocking as it was, I know they weren’t the only ones who had little clue that the 11th of November was different than any other day. It goes without saying there’s a need to set a few things straight.
So, I call on all of us who know better to teach others about Veterans Day. Urge those around you to take a moment to remember our veterans and those who are still in harm’s way.
You don’t have to go to a flag-raising ceremony, attend a parade, or even buy one of those “Buddy Poppies” (although I do, because I enjoy talking to those guys). You don’t have to agree on this war or that war and you certainly don’t have to watch “The Sands of Iwo Jima” at attention.
Although the Duke would love you for it, may he rest in peace.
If nothing else, reflect on the service of all those who have worn, and continue to wear, our nation’s uniform. From Lexington to Kabul, they deserve our respect and our thanks.
As a veteran myself, I salute them all.
Have a Happy Veterans Day!
Or, better yet, a solemn one.