Veterans’ Day is coming up, and I’m always a little unsure of how to handle it. Once it was called Armistice Day in remembrance of the end of hostilities in WWI. A day to honor the end of hostilities. I like that. I wonder if we will ever be able to do that again? However, now it’s called Veterans’ Day.
How will it be marked? There will be a straggly parade. Main Street will be lined with flags. The paper will have some photos and a couple of articles about local veterans. Because we have a VA facility, there will be a little more pomp and ceremony out there. FaceBook will be alive with posts about heroes, and how the military has made American democracy possible and continues to save us from potential invaders of all kinds. More than a few will thump their chests in a manly way to signify whatever it is they are signifying. I’m always amazed at how some people can take so much pride in the work of killing other people, as long as they don’t have to do it.
If nothing else it will reveal an appallingly abysmal lack of historical knowledge.
In the meantime, veterans returning from our current ala carte menu of hostilities will continue to struggle reentering civilian life. We no longer have to worry about WWII vets because there are so few left. To be fair, in the years following 1945 the nation did rally to offer education, housing, and decent VA medical care. Korean vets will soon follow. You remember. They were the supporting cast for MASH. Vietnam and later vets will be fodder for yet more newspaper articles and congressional hearings. Everyone will tut-tut, but anti tax cost cutters will join forces with super patriots and big defense spenders to make sure we pay for all the next wars we can imagine while the VA is kept understaffed by incompetent people, shortchanging the needs of today’s veterans to whom we promised the nation’s eternal gratitude.
Maybe this Veterans’ Day should be a day of national contrition in which we prayerfully reflect on the morality of war in all its forms, and on our moral duty to those whom we have sent off with promises of support we have not had the fortitude to provide.
Thank them with the services they deserve, and, yes, throw in a parade as well.