World War I hostilities ceased at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, Armistice Day, 1918. Dubbed “The war to end all wars,” World War I closed with a commitment to peace. A year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11, 1919, the first commemoration of Armistice Day, a day for America “to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”
When, in 1926, the U. S. Congress officially recognized the commemoration, it proclaimed, “the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” Armistice Day became a legal holiday in 1938, as a day dedicated to the cause of world peace.
In a culture of war and empire, it’s time to reclaim Nov. 11 as a day of peace.
The organization Veterans for Peace knows this. Committed to “building a culture of peace,” VFP recognizes this origin of Veterans Day each year by informing the public of “the true causes of war and the enormous costs of wars.” On Monday, Veterans for Peace, with more than 140 chapters worldwide, is organizing peace marches, Veterans Day parades, and commemorations. It is staging public readings of wartime letters and names of fallen soldiers, and holding exhibits and musical performances to honor and celebrate veterans.
Massachusetts Veterans for Peace is encouraging congregations statewide to revive the tradition of ringing their bells at 11 a.m. on Veterans Day for the cause of peace.
In London, “In opposition to the pro-war tone of the state parade,” Veterans for Peace planned to meet in Trafalgar Square and march under a banner that “reflects the original sentiment of the Armistice, ‘NEVER AGAIN.’”
What about you? What can you do? How can you take a stand for peace in the midst of a culture of war? This Veterans Day might provide the opportunity for you to support diplomacy with Iran. Or perhaps your leading is to support humanitarian aid for Syrians caught in the middle of the fighting between government and rebel forces or to advocate for the withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan. Or perhaps you can join Veterans for Peace as an ally in your locale.
On this Veterans Day, it behooves us to consider how we can reclaim the holiday and take a stand for peace. Let us join the efforts of those who understand the origins of the holiday and want to work for peace in this war-ravaged world.
Margaret Benefiel, Ph.D., author of Soul at Work and The Soul of a Leader, works with leaders in health care, business, churches, government, and nonprofits to help them stay true to their souls. Visit her website.
Photo: Shutterstock/ Fisun Ivan