By Robert F. Sanchez, JMI Policy Director, Captain USAR (Ret)
Before November 11th became Veterans Day, it was celebrated as Armistice Day. November 11, 1918 was the day when a truce – taking effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — ended the horrific trench warfare of World War I.That conflict was called “the war to end all wars.” Afterward, the victors punished the vanquished and formed the ineffectual League of Nations to preserve the peace. A couple of decades later, in 1938, an act of Congress made Armistice Day a federal holiday.By then, however, the world had been mired deep in a Great Depression for nearly a decade. In Germany, a demagogic dictator had risen to power by promising to use the power of the state to fix the economy.The Holocaust and World War II soon followed. In the United States, reeling from the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the citizen soldiers who became known as “the Greatest Generation” stepped forward to turn back the aggressors.After World War II, the victors formed the United Nations to preserve the peace, but peace was again elusive. A Cold War erupted between the West and the Soviet bloc’s “evil empire.”The Soviet bloc’s expansion seemed inexorable. China came under Communist rule. An armed conflict broke out in Korea, causing the United States — which had substantially disarmed after World War II – to begin rebuilding its military strength and to intervene in Korea.In 1954, the November 11 federal holiday was renamed Veterans Day to honor all of those who had served honorably in all of the nation’s wars. President Dwight D. Eisenhower – something of a veteran himself — signed the first Veterans Day proclamation.Veterans Day, of course, should not be confused with Memorial Day, a solemn observance on the last Monday in May to honor those who gave their lives in service to their country. Rather, Veterans Day is for all who served.Yet the origins of the November 11 observance – to mark the end of “the war to end all wars” – reminds us that the best guarantor of peace in a dangerous world is strength – the military strength to deter attacks, the economic strength to support military strength and to address the festering conditions that so often lead to armed conflicts.Veterans Day is also a reminder that those who have served in the military deserve more than parades and speeches once a year. In particular, those who have suffered wounds – whether physical or emotional — deserve excellent care. We can afford to do no less.