Thursday, November 11, 2010

Armistice Day vs. Veterans Day

Frankly, I prefer the former.  And so do, I imagine, the handful of World War I veterans who are still alive and actually remember the end of what is regarded as the second deadliest war in human history and the first truly world war.

Considering the place the armed forces have in the national consciousness of the United States specifically -- Support Our Troops! -- I find it ironic that all veterans, living and dead, get not only just one single day a year, but they do it at the expense of World War I veterans.  Move over, fellas, we're all going to have to cram in here!

There may not be many WWI vets alive today, but there sure as hell were when President Eisenhower officially hijacked their day back in 1954.  Apparently the idea was the brainchild of some shop owner in Emporia, Kansas.  Well, we got sold something, that's for sure.

I wonder how V-E (May 8, 1945) and V-J (September 2, 1945 in the U.S.) Day veterans thought about this.  Were not those two singular days momentous enough to be commemorated on their own?  What about our own, homegrown war?  Shouldn't we give April 9, 1865, its due especially considering it remains the deadliest war in American history?  Or how about the day Cornwallis finally surrendered in the War of Independence -- October 19, 1781?  That's kind of important, right? day, that's it.  I think it's a sham(e) that Americans cannot be bothered to remember some of these seminal dates in our not-so-lengthy history.  I'm not saying that each date needs to be a federal holiday -- perish the thought; we're not France! -- but cannot each date be at least remembered by a moment of silence in government, a moment of instruction in classrooms, or even a mere mention in the calendar?  Unfortunately, for a nation that talks a big fight, we tend to lose our way in the follow-through; we prefer things uncomplicated and convenient.  So we have "Veterans Day" -- please note the lack of an apostrophe; in the government's wisdom, they decided to leave it out on know, because, really, who can figure out if it should be Veteran's or Veterans'?

So, today, I will certainly remember all that our living and dead veterans have done, their service and sacrifice, but I will especially remember that at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, an armistice was signed in a railway car in a forest near the French town of Compiègne that ended the War To End All Wars.

I feel I owe it to the more than nine million soldiers killed, and I especially owe it to my Great-Great-Uncle Arthur Alden who was killed just a couple months before in July following the Battle of Château-Thierry.

[Image via Wikipedia.]