Originally, Veterans Day was Armistice Day. On November 11, 1918, at 11:00 a.m., the Allies and Germany signed the armistice to cease hostilities on the Western Front. That marked the beginning of the end of the “War to End War.”
The idea in 1918 that everlasting peace was obtainable was naive and overly optimistic. It required that we turn a blind eye to history. By 1918, the United States had been involved in war almost continuously since its birth. The Revolution. The Franco-American War. The Barbary Wars. The War of 1812. Numerous wars with native Americans as the Nation expanded. The Mexican War. The Civil War. More wars with native Americans. The Spanish-American War. Few, if any, stars on Old Glory came without people being killed. The histories of other nations as empire builders were similar.
The idea of everlasting peace also required that we disregard human nature. Maybe human beings are just genetically bellicose. Wars have been fought over territory, national identity, national integrity, “ethnic purity,” religion, drugs, resources, and ideology. We even fought wars to prevent wars -- preventive or preemptive wars.
The concept of everlasting peace also required that we overlook the proclivities of our leaders. Wars allow politicians to show that they are strong, to unite citizens in a common effort, to distract the citizenry, to boost employment and the Economy, or to reward contributors and supporters. Since World War II and In addition to wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Kuwait and invasions of Grenada, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan, we have had “wars” on poverty, drugs, and terror. Yes, our leaders seem to like war.
The writing was on the wall, and World War I did not end all war. Instead, we seem to have never-ending war and always-ending peace. After World War II, Armistice Day became Veterans Day in the United States.
Never-ending war and always-ending peace mean a never-ending need for soldiers and sailors. Young men and women fill that need. They take on a job created by repeating history, human nature, and our leaders. At times, they were conscripted. Some times, they forced into service by judges, poverty, or unemployment. Often, they volunteered out of patriotism, a sense of duty, or the desire to serve their fellow Americans. We even have offered them incentives in the form of signing, re-enlistment, and post-service education bonuses.
No matter how they became soldiers and sailors, they gave up some part of -- or all of -- their lives for what somebody thought was the greater good. They did what we as an electorate ordered them to do. Nearly all did so honorably.
Irrespective of whether folks were too idealistic in 1918 and irrespective your political or philosophical bent, today is a day to remember the sacrifices made by young men and women who served us and the sacrifices also made by their parents, spouses, partners, and children.