|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.