In the wake of the latest escalation of the U.S. “war on terror,” it’s time to remember the origin of Veterans Day. In 1926, Congress officially recognized the commemoration of Armistice Day on Nov. 11 with the exhortation, “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 commemorated the day when World War I hostilities ceased, and had been celebrated informally since 1919 as a day to work for peace.
President Obama doubled the number of U.S. troops in Iraq a few days ago, immediately after the election. With a foreign policy based on undeclared wars and with coffers drained by military expenditures, Americans need to raise our voices. Every hour, U.S. taxpayers pay $312,500 for the action against ISIS.
Veterans for Peace will lead the way in sponsoring peace events for Veterans Day this year. In Boston, for example, the Veterans Day Peace Parade will culminate in a peace event at historic Faneuil Hall. In Louisville, Ky., veteran Peter Berres wrote a prominent opinion piece in the city’s major newspaper, the Courier-Journal. In Raleigh, N.C., veterans installed a Swords to Plowshares bell tower on the state capitol grounds for the several days leading up to Veterans Day.
Other organizations will also call people back to the original purpose of Veterans Day. Church bells across the country will ring for peace at 11 a.m. on Veterans Day. The Harvard Center for Middle East Studies will sponsor a talk by Reese Erlich on the problems with the U.S. military approach to ISIS. In the U. K., London veterans marched for peace yesterday under the banner “Never Again,” carrying a wreath of white poppies to commemorate civilians killed in war.
What is your part? In the midst of the U.S. policy of endless war, what are you called to do? Whether you join a peace march, write a letter to the editor, sign a petition, or quietly talk to your friends, you are making a contribution. If each of us discerns our part and takes the next step, our contributions can combine to achieve more than we imagine. On this Veterans Day, let us reclaim the holiday and 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.
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