Today is Veterans’ Day here in the states. In other parts of the world it’s known as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. Briefly, Armistice Day is a day to commemorate the end of WWI. There’s a lot more to it than that – based on the politics of the time and what your nationality is. But simply put, Armistice/ Remembrance Day is regarded as a day to remember those who have served their country and those who may have lost their lives in that service.
Today I chose to share pictures from an article about the red poppies adorning the Tower of London in honor of Armistice Day. No, I’m not British. But I can’t help but be impressed by the sheer imagery of the red against the grey of the old tower and the green and brown fall grass. Also, I have to admire the beauty and artistry of the installation.
When I first heard about the poppy installation, and that the Queen has asked that it remain up longer than originally planned, I thought “How are they going to keep the poppies alive?”. Turns out, the poppies are ceramic! Each poppy represents a British serviceman/woman that died during WWI. Now here’s the brilliant bit, each poppy is being sold as a fund raiser for British veterans’ organizations. Paul Cummins, the artist who came up with the idea, has had help making over 800,000 poppies (a team of 35 people), and each poppy took days to make. If you want more information about the poppies and the installation, follow this link. You can even buy a poppy and help support vets internationally!
We have quite a few war monuments and memorials dotting our country, some permanent, and some like the poppies, temporary. Our town even has a few war memorials (Vietnam and WWII, to name two of them) and a display of the names of local men and women who have served our country is standing in front of our courthouse. These memorials and displays are good things. It’s important to remember just how many people have served and how many have died in that service.
And that is why we set today aside a day to thank our Veterans for their service. I have a few veterans in my family, and know quite a few others, from a number of conflicts and wars. I’m very thankful for all of their lives and the risks they took while serving our country. However, I have a problem with the marketing of days like Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day*. Again, I can’t stress how much I admire those men and women who served. Please, please, remember that as you continue to read my post.
Why do I struggle with the marketing of Veterans’ Day? I value life, all life. War kills. It’s that simple. But that belief includes the life and lively hood of our soldiers. Which makes me a proponent of veterans’ rights.
What I don’t like on days like today is feeling that I am being regarded as un-American because I don’t agree with some of the prevalent positions on war – be it the idea of war in general, or the current conflicts/wars in which our service men and women are risking their lives. It’s hard to explain to people that just because I don’t agree with the politics of a conflict/war, that doesn’t mean I can’t try to be supportive of the people involved in those conflicts. For me, it’s a bit like that old adage “don’t kill the messenger”.
It breaks my heart to see so many young men and women crippled by mental illness or physical handicaps that they received while serving our country. My heart breaks every time I see or hear about a homeless Vietnam Vet. Tears well up when I think about all the service men and women who are unable to adapt and return to civilian life or about the staggering number of service men/women and vets who commit suicide.
That being said, I think the thing that bothers me most about days like Veterans’ Day is the forcing of the idea that you have to be a flag waving, ‘Merican in a “God Bless America” T-shirt to appreciate today. Whereas I see it as a day set aside to remember how horrific war can be and just how honorable those men and women who serve our country really are. For me, it’s not a day to be proud to be an American, it’s a day to honor those Americans who lead a secret life as invisible cape wearing, specially trained, real life super heroes who gave up a part of their life for an ideal. And in my opinion, that ideal is a peaceable country and world, not the conflict in which they may be required to participate and mediate.
So if you are a vet, thanks for giving up a part of your life, so that I can live mine peacefully. May you find peace in yours.
(FYI – Memorial Day is to remember those who died in service of their country, Veterans’s Day is to honor all who served. Poppies are often used to remember those who died in the service of their country based on the poem “In Flanders Fields” written by John McCrae in 1915. (WWW.va.gov) )