The Diversion of Honoring Veterans on Armistice Day

Today is officially Veterans Day, but yesterday, 11/11/2018 was the 100th anniversary of the armistice agreed upon in a railroad car in the woods of France.  World War I was to have been the “war to end all wars”, but as everyone now knows, it wasn’t. 

How did Armistice Day become Veterans Day, and why did the treaty officially ending WWI start WWII?

The first Armistice Day was celebrated on November 11, 1919, a year following the endo of fighting in Europe.  In 1926 Congress passed a resolution that Armistice Day be observed, and 1938 it became a national holiday in the U.S.  In 1954 president Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill officially changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day, changing focus from the peace treaty of a war to an annual celebration honoring veterans, living and dead, for their military service.

Veterans Day, which had its roots in the ending of WWI honored the living, whereas, Memorial Day, which was rooted in Decoration Day, a day on which families went to the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War cleaned up and placed flowers at the gravesite, honored the fallen.

 “In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed by Congress, which moved the celebration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. The law went into effect in 1971, but in 1975 President Gerald Ford returned Veterans Day to November 11, due to the important historical significance of the date.”

However, November 12 is the Federal Holiday, thereby giving government workers a three day holiday.

Great Britain and Canada still celebrate “Remembrance Day” on November 11.

What are those nations remembering?

On June 28, following the Armistice in 1918, The Treaty of Versailles was signed.  There is general agreement that that treaty lay the groundwork for WWII.

Most will remember most of the members of the Allied Powers, but might have a hard time coming up with half of the Central Powers.  To refresh memories, the Allied Powers were; The British Empire, France, Italy, Russia, Serbia and The United States,   The Central Powers were, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, Germany and Bulgaria.

These Alliances of Powers were designed to prevent war.  The concept was to create a consortium too large to think about being belligerent with.  The concept was flawed and worse it meant that when war between two countries started all of Europe was engaged.

Why were Serbia and Bulgaria involved?  Remember that the war started when Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by Gavril Princip, a South Slav nationalist, in Sarajevo, Bosnia.   Princip, who was under the age of 20 when he killed the archduke and his consort Sophie, was sentenced to 25 years for his crime, but died in prison of tuberculosis in 1918.

“I am the son of peasants and I know what is happening in the villages. That is why I wanted to take revenge, and I regret nothing. ..” Gavril Princip

To understand the actions of Gavril Princip you have to know the history of the First and Second Balkan Wars. In the first war Bulgaria and Serbia were allies against the Ottoman Empire.  In the second war Bulgaria turned on its former allies, one of which was Serbia, and was defeated.  Serbia aligned with the Allied Powers, and Bulgaria with the Central Powers.

The act of one angry individual produced into place conflict, that because of the entanglement of nations started a world war.

How did the Treaty of Versailles set the stage for WWII?

Under the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles Germany accepted all blame for the war, was forced to pay reparations, gave up territory, gave up all of its colonies and was forced to disarm.  The intent of the treaty was revenge.  Contrast with the Marshall Plan following WWII.

Those provisions enraged Germans, impoverished Germany, and ten years later, involved Germany in the world wide Great Depression to a much more severe degree than was  the rest of Europe and the United States.

It is interesting that both Decoration Day and Armistice Day moved away from remembrances of the aftermath of war to celebrations of the heroism of individuals. 

Memorial Day and Veterans Day, in some ways do us a disservice.  They have turned the conversation from the blessings of peace to the heroism of individuals who served.  The problem with this shift is that it diverts attention from the reasons for war, the actions of those in power who get everyone involved in war, and the provisions for peace following wars to a celebration of war.

As a combat veteran whose brother and father were combat veterans I think I can honorably say that we don’t need holidays celebrating our service.  What we need is support for the injuries – physical and mental – that we suffered in those wars.  Those who get us all into wars are not very enthusiastic about taking care of veterans.  It is almost as if, since we were all cannon fodder to begin with, it would have been simpler if we had just all died.

I would be willing to give up both Memorial Day and Veterans Day for a Futility and Horror of Wars Day.

We could make it a four day weekend to keep the government employees happy.

Instead of televised images of flying flags and the cemetery at Arlington we could have day long images of troops blown up by I.E.D.s and pictures of homeless veterans with PTSD on the streets. 

Of course, there would be pushback against this idea because it does not support nationalism.  It supports patriotism.  Besides, no one decorates graves on Memorial Day.  Everyone in the South knows that is the first day on the lake.  It’s about fried chicken and sweet tea.

Veterans Day is just a day off following Sunday when there is usually some message at church about the bravery of the veterans in the congregation with a flag draped alongside the Caucasian image of Jesus.

Today, when people thank me for my service I just say, “You’re welcome and thank you for thinking of me.”  I don’t question their motivation.  I know some are nationalists who believe that America is exceptional and has the right to demand access to the treasure of the rest of the world.  Others have family members who have served and want to honor them by honoring me.  Some just do it because it is now part of company policy.  Some are genuinely grateful.

This is not an anti-veteran rant.  Criticizing those who get us into wars does not dishonor veterans.  Likewise, I don’t criticize veterans because they served in conflicts of dubious justification.  It is the duty of all of us to elect representatives who won’t commit our sons and daughters to that abuse.

Yesterday I played and sang this song at our fellowship at the request of someone else.  It was a challenge.  Trace Adkins is a deep baritone and I'm a tenor.  It was recorded in F#minor.  I couldn't reach the low notes so I moved it to G#minor.  F#minor would have been easy playing as if in E minor with a capo, but I chose to play it a tone higher by playying as if it were Am and tuning down a half tone.  Also, there is a lot of picking, an orchestra, and the West Point choir on the recording.  So, I changed a lot. 

Views: 73

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on November 12, 2018 at 9:39am

Thank you!  

Comment by Rosigami on November 12, 2018 at 10:20am

Excellent piece of writing. The history lesson is one that bears repeating, along with your thoughtful observations. 
And the music is good, too. (p.s. the BLP and I adjust tunes all the time, up or down as needed, to accommodate his tenor and my alto voice. We also re-arrange music to get the most out of our duo and trio instrumentation, which rarely is the same as the professional groups with scads of technology and several more musicians. It's always a fun challenge!) 

Comment by Rodney Roe on November 12, 2018 at 11:18am

Jon, I am not sure whether you are thanking me for my service or this piece.  You're welcome either way.

Rosi, so good to hear from you.  I was just wondering today as I was putting the thing at the bottom about the fact that I hadn't heard from you lately.  I think the arranging is fun, and I've never been the sort that could have played in a "cover band".  I like history because it helps me understand the present a little better.

Comment by Ron Powell on November 12, 2018 at 11:43am

Well done!

Comment by Doc Vega on November 12, 2018 at 12:29pm

Nationalism is not the unjust application of personal commitment to a country's own priorities and should not be equated  with Hitler and demonizing our President either. Chiang Kai Chek headed the Chinese Nationalist Party did that make him an evil dictator like Kim Jong un, I think not! Nationalism here in America is seeing to the needs of our people like veterans suffering from PTSD and not relocating hundreds of thousands of refugees who are largely not ideologically aligned with our notion of personal freedoms, and definitely not a part of allowing amnesty to illegal aliens and refusing to deport the criminals in resistance to the ICE. Once one begins applying PC logic to the simple definition of a concept it all goes south!

Comment by Rodney Roe on November 12, 2018 at 1:56pm
Regardless of his party's name, Chiang Kai-shek was not a nationalist.  The following quote, if he truly subscribed to his word, tells us that.
"My long struggles as a soldier of the Chinese Revolution have forced me to realize the necessity of facing hard facts. There will be neither peace, nor hope, nor future for any of us unless we honestly aim at political, social and economic justice for all peoples of the world, great and small." Chiang Kai-shek
How to achieve that justice is the question.  Not all refugees are criminals or terrorists, but some are.  Lumping them all together is a trap for both liberals and conservatives.
Comment by Rodney Roe on November 12, 2018 at 1:57pm

Ron, thanks for reading.

Comment by Tom Cordle on November 12, 2018 at 3:26pm

A National Remembrance Day would be fine, but I'm also for a National Day of Instruction dedicated to learning the lessons that ought to be learned from wars. For instance, it is common knowledge – grossly wrong common knowledge – that WWI was the result of tangled alliances and the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. That's a cop-out that glosses over the ugly truth. The truth is WWI was the first of many wars fought over oil.

By the turn of the 20th Century, it was apparent to all the major powers that oil was about to become an industrial and military necessity. Control of Mideast oil was a particular sticking point. England and Germany were at loggerheads, and both were determined to go to war, if necessary, to gain control of that oil. The tangled alliances meant that eventually the rest of the world would get dragged in the war for oil.

While the onerous terms of the Versailles Treaty certainly contributed, that was not the prime cause of WWII. No, the prime cause was once again the industrial and military necessity of oil, The Treaty reduced Germany to at best a second-rate power, but the powerful in Germany knew their nation could never be a first-rate world power without oil – and a deep-water port that would accommodate oil tankers. What followed from the Germans determination to acquire both was madness, of course, but that's another story.

You would have thought – having been dragged into two World Wars, that this nation would have learned its lesson about oil. But alas, that was not the case; and as no less an authority on the matter than Alan Greenspan admitted in his book, the Iraq War and most likely the Afghanistan War were also ultimately about oil. Why we persist in the reckless pursuit of oil – and god help us, coal – when we are thisclose to being energy independent without either is evidence of ignorance on the part of the public and greed on the part of politicians, particularly those like Sen/ James Imhofe from oil producing states.

When will we ever learn?

Comment by koshersalaami on November 12, 2018 at 6:07pm

Yes, we were told that Iraqi oil would pay for the Iraq war.

Comment by Rodney Roe on November 12, 2018 at 7:25pm

Tom Cordle ~  The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie was just the final provocation for war.  The West has been obsessed with fossil fuels, coal and oil, but particularly oil, because of the control of production, distribution, price and price is easy for the profit of a few. 

The Crimean War was ostensibly about differences in religion, but it was really about Russia wanting an open port and access to the Black Sea.  Likewise, it's been said that Britain wanted access to the Holy Land, which was controlled by the Ottomans, so that religious scholars could do their work.  When was any war ever fought over intellectual scholarship?  What they wanted was the Suez Canal and a passage to their empire in the East. Again, follow the money.

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