Today is Veteran’s Day. November 11th. I am a veteran; as is my father, and some few of my friends.
From the end of World War I, until 1954, we celebrated this day as Armistice Day, as a remembrance of the moment in that first great-global conflict; when the fighting stopped along the lines, stopped suddenly, stopped all at once, at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month; as if the director of the war yelled “cut!” And all the actors on the stage, the pawns in their trenches, the people lying in their graves got up from what they were doing and went home.
That is not what happened. Sixteen million people were killed in World War I, sixteen million families broken, and many millions more suffering in the aftermath. It was perceived by those who endured it as so horrible that it was sure to be the war to end all wars, but that would not be the case.
The gods of war are busy. The conflicts they sew never ends.
Today is the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours. He is the patron saint of soldiers; St. Martin of the Sword. He was the first Christian Soldier. It was in recognition of him, and his feast that this date was selected, to bring a halt to World War I.
Pope, Saint Gregory the Great, who gave us our calendar, penned his hagiography. Though it is not likely that Martin ever even lived. The hagiography was a fiction, our celebration of Saint Martin, just a lie. It was a fable with a purpose, through it Pope Gregory gave permission to Christians to takes up arms. He gave Christian soldiers leave to march to war.
The spirits of conflict have a will of their own…their will is our own.
In 1954, President Eisenhower, who had been the Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, he changed the nature of the November 11th Holiday. He changed it from Armistice Day, to Veteran’s Day, in honor of all Veterans who had fought in any conflict, anywhere in the world.
That is what we celebrate today.
We do not celebrate the end of war, because war’s never end. We do not celebrate the fictional life of a fictional saint, whose usefulness as a propaganda tool suggested that it was possible to serve Jesus, with a sword, and that peace is the fruit of violence. We celebrate the character of those who have had the courage to enlist, to risk their lives for the lives of their sisters and brothers, whether at home or beside them in the field.
The spirits of conflict have a will of their own…the children of Aries; Fear, Panic, Strife, they own us. We are possessed.
We are still waging war all around the world, we the United States of America are waging war; in Iraq, in Afghanistan, arming rebels in Syria, selling weapons, and feeding other conflicts in every sector of the globe.
I served in the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman, from 1990 – 1994.
I did not serve in that theatre where we killed 300,000 Iraqis in the space of a few months.
My father served for twenty-two years; the first four as a Marine, and then eighteen in the Air Force. Our nation went to war only once during that time, in Vietnam, where my father served multiple tours of duty, we killed 3,000,000 Vietnamese.
We have killed millions more in many other nations in the decades since.
Millions of families broken.
We are terrible, we are profligate killers of our fellow human beings. Every bullet we fire, every missile we launch, each of them is an admission of our failure as diplomats.
Violence does not beget peace, it begets violence. Peace and reconciliation bring Peace.
Love one another; pay respect to the inherent dignity of every human being, regardless of your disagreements, regardless of the pain you are carrying from your past. Commit yourself to meet conflict with love, and respect, this is the thanks you can give to a Veteran today.