Tuesday, November 11, 2014

11 11 18

  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.


  1. Recognize older people who had a lot of experience? Wow, that was coming from adults who should've known better.
    I salute you for your service and dedication to our country. My father served in Vietnam and I have the utmost respect for what the men and women of our country's military do for the rest of us.

    1. I was really, really amazed when they made that announcement.

  2. Replies
    1. Sort of like I told Pat below, I wish, when I went to enlist, a sign was on the recruiter's office: "Sorry. We're No Longer Taking Applications. No Need Anymore."

  3. Should always remember indeed. All the respect in the world for veterans.

    1. I sincerely wish there wasn't a need for veterans.

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you. I attended a great ceremony at a local elementary school and got a free cheeseburger at Red Robin. Yeah. Win-win.

  5. Yes, I've read this post before but its message still rings with a powerful message and I'll continue to celebrate its message every time you post it. And thank you for your service.

    1. I'm still amazed to look at pictures from when I first went in. Yep, time really zips along.

  6. Did the Civil War veterans have their own day? I still feel for them after seeing The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

    1. Seriously? They did. Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and originally was a day set aside for Confederate widows to "decorate" the graves of the fallen of the "Noble Cause."
      I'm full of knowledge that way.
      Or just full of it.

  7. It's sad that teachers don't know what Veterans Day is. Thank you for your service, Penwusser. I wonder how it came about that something started in Emporia, Kansas, would spread across the country. I have been to Emporia more than once. It doesn't seem an influential spot to me.


    1. Kansas? Right? I thought that was just where Dorothy and Toto lived.
      Amazing about some teachers. But, luckily, many of them know what it's truly all about now. In fact, I was one of about a dozen vets who attended a truly heart-warming ceremony at a local elementary school. They placed me between a WW1 vet and a guy who joined the Navy to avoid being sent to Vietnam. I felt like a teenager!

  8. In Australia, we have ANZAC Day (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) every April to commemorate everyone's who's ever served in our army. November 11 for us is Remembrance Day and is purely to dedicated to the ceasefire in WWI. At 11am, the whole nation comes to a stop to observe a minute's silence. I actually just saw this which made me a bit angry.


    1. And there were many, many Australians who died at the balls-up in Gallipoli.

  9. Our family has many veterans and losses from the Revolutionary War through the Viet Nam "conflict." Freedom isn't free - it's cliche, but true. There's a reason why people repeat that over and over.

    Why we have a whole generation of people who have forgotten that confounds me.

    I thank you every day for your service. <3

    1. Makes you think that compulsory military service for a couple years wouldn't be such a bad idea. At least that way everyone would know what it's like. Maybe, maybe not...

  10. Well said, Al.
    I read an article a couple of weeks ago that described how, since 1918, British servicemen had suffered fatalities in each and every year bar one. I suspect the same applies for their American counterparts. The least we can do is to honor their huge sacrifice.

  11. It's a great day to celebrate, but tragic that we are still creating more and more Veterans.