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.