By Jack Gilroy
Over one-hundred years ago, November 11, 1918, the Great War, World War I, came to an end.
People around the world rejoiced and celebrated the end of hostilities, a time to declare peace. The following year of 1919, the day became known as Armistice Day. It was not a day to celebrate war and warriors, but a day to celebrate peace.
The British and German governments are issuing a unique joint appeal to communities across the world to ring their church and other bells in unison on Armistice Day at 11 a.m. to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the awful slaughter.
It’s time for Americans to reclaim Armistice Day. In 1954, we dropped the name “Armistice Day” and adopted “Veterans Day.” We replaced a sacred day of thanksgiving for a day to glorify warriors. That was not the intent of veterans of WWI.
Veterans rejoiced at no more artillery and mortar rounds ripping through young bodies; mustard gas searing lungs and burning skin; the end of machine gun fire projecting 450 rounds per minute; innovation monster weapons of death, like tanks and weaponized aircraft that killed millions for Empire. People mourned for the mostly poor and working class drafted or lured by disinformation and lies of propaganda.
When Armistice Day was declared one year after the war, 1919, people were beginning to understand that the bloodshed was not about valor or glory or medals or service but about power and money. Just in the United States alone, 15,000 new millionaires were made in our short participation in the European war.Republican Herbert Hoover, director of the Food Administration in Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s administration, summed up the situation by noting: “Older men declare war, but it is the young who fight and die.” He could have added, “who fight and die for lies of the rich and powerful.”
Rory Fanning, a former U.S. Army Ranger with two deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, has written: “It gets clearer and clearer with each passing year that Veterans Day is less about honoring veterans than it is about easing the guilty consciences of those who have sent others to kill and die for reasons that have very little to do with democracy and freedom.” (The Guardian, August 2014) Kurt Vonnegut, one of our great American writers, lived the misery of World War II as a U.S. infantryman in Europe. Vonnegut has one of his characters saying in “Breakfast of Champions”: “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. Veterans Day celebrates ‘heroes’ and encourages going off to kill and be killed in a future war — or one of our current wars.”