Veterans Day was officially established to note the formal end of the Major hostilities of World War I, which happened when the Germans signed the Armistice at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Now, it is a more-general (no pun intended) holiday to honor all the men and women who have been or are in military service.
These days, though, Veterans Day has become an impatient holiday that many acknowledge only as a day off. While some communities still hold parades with flags and veterans, most mark the day with retail sales. Restaurants offer free or discounted meals for veterans as a marketing opportunity, some homes will stick a flag in a bracket out front for the day.
Wars are no longer "Great" or generational, and they rarely require our entire country's collective and visceral sacrifice the way World Wars 1 & 2 did. The collective sacrifice to war these days is huge national debt and the resulting impact that has on politics, taxation, and social services, all kept deftly and patriotically distanced from discussions about balancing the federal budget. Instead, the debt of war is blamed on those who need social services ("takers"), the size of "big" government (never mind that military spending is government's biggest growth program), and that rather vaguely-defined monster "Wall Street."
As a result, our contemporary wars are not daily-headline-daily-life stuff. Identifying what our soldiers serve for is harder to honestly define these days, though we have our comfortingly simple patriotic slogans to fall back on. We have our yellow ribbon stickers to place on the rear-ends of our gas-sucking oversized consumption-mobiles, so we can both ensure the need for more soldiers in the field and pretend to be patriotic on their behalf. We have red, white, and blue sales at the mall.
Meanwhile, countless men and women continue to enlist, serve, and sacrifice. For those who return home we offer an impatient holiday once a year, gutted social services and difficult-to-obtain medical care just when many of them need it most, and a total lack of understanding for the experiences many of these men and women have been through or the adjustments they have to make as they attempt to return home to what for the rest of us has remained a steadily-normal uninterrupted life. War? What war?
So long as we continue to send our men and women to war zones around the world, then, we owe it to them to be consciously informed and aware. We must hold our politicians (who, after all, are merely an extension of our votes and of the corporations who fund them) accountable for this cost, and we must only allow them to spend military service when and where truly necessary. We must make sure we fully fund the full range of services and support our military families need during and after service. We must also fight against the comfortable illusion that war is something other people do or that it has little to no impact on our lives here at home. We must also ensure that our military is only an extension of our country's values, and not allow it to be used for any other reasons.
We are paying dearly for our wars, and it does not honor that sacrifice when we pretend otherwise. This, and only this, is patriotism.
To the men and women of our nation's several military services, to those who have served or who are currently serving, I offer my sincere thanks for your service and commit to do everything in my power to make sure such service is not taken for granted.
I wish you all a very mindful Veterans Day!
- Posted via Hermes.