• Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on Nov. 11, 2011
Today, we remember and recognize our veterans.
The World War II veterans. The Korean War vets. The Vietnam War vets. The Gulf War vets. And those who have served or are serving in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today, we remember and recognize all those who have fought for our country.
But sometimes I think we tend to forget another group of veterans.
Today, I also would like to remember and recognize those who served during peace time.
My father is one of these veterans. He served in the early 1980s when I was a baby, during the sole period in the last 70 years in which we had at least 15 years of not sending a large contingent of soldiers into combat. He might not have fought in a war or a major conflict, but he served, nonetheless. He was willing, nonetheless. And I feel blessed that my father did not have to fight while he served. That we had relative peace during that time. That my mother didn’t have to worry about her son growing up without a father.
A look back at the history of Veterans Day will show why I think it’s important we take time to honor those who did not have to fight, as well as those who did.
Veterans Day started out as Armistice Day, a day to recognize those who served during World War I. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ website, “An Act … approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday – a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day.” In 1954, it was changed to Veterans Day to “honor American veterans of all wars.”
Nov. 11 originally was meant as a day to be “dedicated to the cause of world peace.” I think remembering those veterans who served during peace time is a good way to include that original meaning into the holiday.
Certainly, we should and need to continue to honor those who have shown their bravery during conflict. They put their lives on the line for their country. That is a great deed that must be honored. But by also remembering those who did not have to fight on Veterans Day, we remember the ideal – world peace, a country without conflict, what world leaders were so hopeful for after World War I only to see the rest of the century devolve into constant battles.
One day, I hope to see more veterans like my dad – veterans who were ready to fight, who were willing to fight, but didn’t have to.
I have no desire to debate whether getting into the current conflicts was right or wrong. I simply wish for the conflicts to end and for all of our soldiers to come home. And in the future, I hope we become better at preventing wars and conflicts rather than fighting them.
One day, though it will be long after I’ve gone, I hope there will be a Veterans Day when all of the veterans in attendance will be like my father. Ready to serve. Willing to serve. But unused in conflict. Then it will be a day of not only remembrance and recognition, but also of celebration.