November 11 is a cause for mixed emotions among those former member of the military who wish to permanently halt the horror of war.
A holiday in our name is indeed an honor, as was our service itself, but "armistice" somehow still sounds more suitable. That word refers to the end of a conflict, the end of the killing, the maiming, the destruction, the inhumanity, the erosion of civilized personal behaviors that have taken centuries to mold. While "armistice" does not connote lasting peace, at least it does connote a chance for societies to grasp hold of themselves and, if able, to pull back from the abyss.
Veterans For Peace, while grateful for the parades recognizing our duty and the ultimate sacrifice of our fallen comrades, would prefer a time of reexamination of the jaded justifications and obscene outcomes of the military causes we served. All too frequently those justifications have been morally insufficient to vindicate the malevolent international conflicts to which they gave such ignoble birth.
For these reasons, Veterans For Peace gratefully acknowledges the heartfelt recognition which our nation solemnly offers us today. But we fervently urge that tomorrow our great nation devote its equally heartfelt and solemn attention and talents to the cessation of existing wars and to the prevention of similar calamities in the decades to come.
Kurt Vonnegut, the internationally acclaimed author from our country and a POW in Dresden during the Allied firebombing of that city in World War II, gives us something to think about on this day of remembrance:
"... November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy all the people of all the nations which 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 another. I've talked to old men who were on the 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 Veteran's Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veteran's Day is not ... Armistice Day I will keep. I don't want to throw away any sacred things."
Philip J. Smith
President of the Juneau chapter of Veterans for Peace