Monday, November 09, 2009

Veterans Day: A Day Meant to Honor Peace


Veterans Day wasn’t always “Veterans Day.” It used to be called by another name.

In the year 1918, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the Allies and Germany came together at Rethondes, France, and signed an armistice that ended hostilities on the Western Front.

“The War to End All Wars” was finally over. Roughly 20 million had perished, but the November 11 peace lasted and the soldiers went home.

In the United States and other allied countries, November 11 became an official holiday called Armistice Day as declared by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. Several years later, an act of Congress made November 11 a federal legal holiday, calling Armistice Day, “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.”

All around the globe, people embraced the tradition of pausing for two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. on Armistice Day as a tribute to all those who fought in the Great War, as well as to give thanks for peace.

The holiday began to lose its significance in 1939. As Britain and other western countries prepared for the impending war against Germany, it became clear that the “War to End All Wars” would soon need a new name. In some countries, the two-minute Armistice Day silence was moved to the Sunday nearest November 11 to prevent it from interfering with wartime production.

Over 60 million people died in World War II -- the deadliest conflict in human history. In the 1950’s, Armistice Day in the United States was changed to Veterans Day to remember all those that had served. The original language about the holiday being dedicated to ‘world peace’ was dropped.

American novelist Kurt Vonnegut mentioned the holiday in “Breakfast of Champions." As an American WWII veteran and former prisoner of war, he wrote:

“When I 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 and 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."

An outspoken humanist and anti-war activist, the establishment of Veterans Day disappointed him. A holiday dedicated to peace and those who fought in the “War to End All Wars” was replaced by a holiday to honor a continually growing population of war veterans. The name ‘Veterans Day’ itself suggests that we will always have living war veterans to honor -- that war will never be eradicated.

On Veterans Day 2009, we find ourselves at war again. I would like to truly honor the memory and the intent of this day. Place take a few minutes...perhaps at 11 am as in tradition or perhaps at 11:11 on today the 11th month and the 11th day to increase by the power of synchronicity......and honor peace.

May the peace we pray for be sent forward to manifest into a universe of peace where Veteran's Day once again honors that original day of complete peace. And pray for nations to be at peace, with soldiers free....to once more come home again.

Be in a place of peace, today, tomorrow, the next day and the day after that...and maybe make and donate a patriotic quilt of comfort. For our veterans, past and present, for our soldiers, of for the dead and wounded at Fort Hood.

Patriotic Heartstrings Quilting Project
Donating a Quilt: Fort Hood

8 comments:

  1. Lovely post! We should all be feeling gratitude for the veterans who have fought in the past and for the men and women who are taking up the charge today. Our son-in-law is scheduled for another deployment in the next couple of months...which makes the day even more meaningful.

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  2. Great post and a gorgeous quilt...have a great day!

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  3. Beautiful quilt and post!!

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  4. great info. thanks for honoring veterans day!

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  5. I would much rather celebrate World Peace, even for a couple of minutes, than honor a continuing line of veterans, like you said. I honor the veterans, but I would like a stop to it. Great post.

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  6. "May the peace we pray for be sent forward to manifest into a universe of peace where Veteran's Day once again honors that original day of complete peace" - oh Michele. You touch my heart, my spirit and my Soul!

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  7. Great post with great heart..

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  8. You point up the details of the origins of Veteran's Day in a way no one else has. Sad how the day evolved.

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.