As you probably know, Veteran’s Day was originally called Armistice Day. At 11:11 on 11/11/1918, the First World War came to an end. On that last day, despite the fact that it was widely known to be the last day of the war, generals sent 11,000 men to their deaths. 11,000 men, nearly home.
Armistice Day was later changed to Veteran’s Day to broaden the remembrance to veterans of all wars. This always reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite artists, Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut was a World War II veteran and ex-prisoner of war, whose birthday just happens to be 11 November. The quote reflects his belief that this holiday, once it was broadened to be Veteran’s Day, ceased to be sacred. I will agree with him, and I always refer to this day as Armistice Day.
I find this holiday to be the most moving of all holidays, though it would be difficult to call it my favorite. Extraordinary things have been done by those in the military for the rest of us, and those Americans who have not yet been born.
To those who served and are serving: Thank you. You are in my thoughts more than just on this day.
“When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month. It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind. Armistice Day has become Veterans' Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans' Day is not. So I will throw Veterans' Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don't want to throw away any sacred things. What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance. And all music is." –Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.