REMEMBERING ARMISTICE DAY, BY RICHARD CZAPLINSKI

Dear VFP UK

Sending two photos. One is an old postcard of the Cenotaph that was taken in 1932.

The other is of the wonderful Jim Radford. I was fortunate to be able to participate in the 2016 UK VFP Convention and join with both UK and US VFP members in commemorating those who had died in Britain’s numerous wars and occupations.

Best to you and UK VFP for continuing to fight the evil madness that is militarism.

Wage Peace!

Will Thomas
Auburn, NH

VFP Chapter 062, the A.J. Muste Chapter

Remembering Armistice Day

By Richard Czaplinski, President of the Will Miller Green Mountain Veterans for Peace, Chapter 57

A hundred years ago, in a railcar in a forest in France, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, November 11, 1918, the armistice that ended hostilities of the first World War was signed. The war officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919.

In November, 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice1 in the councils of the nations…”

The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a con- current resolution on June 4, 1926 that also recognized Armistice Day with these words “… it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace 1 through good will and mutual understanding between nations …” By this time, the legislatures of twenty-seven states had already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday.

It wasn’t until 12 years later that an act of Congress on May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday “…a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace1 and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.”

In 1954, the 83rd Congress amended the Act of 1938 with Public Law 380 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” Later that same year, on October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first “Veterans Day Proclamation” which began with the words: “WHERE- AS it has long been our custom to commemorate November 11, the anniversary of the ending of World War I, by paying tribute to the heroes of that tragic struggle and by rededicating ourselves to the cause of peace1…”

Fourteen years later, “The Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to ensure three-day weekends for federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production.” Most states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holiday on its original date. After much confusion, on September 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11.

It is a very interesting historical and cultural phenomenon. From a solemn remembrance of the horrors of war and the war often called “The War to End All Wars” and a sincere desire to work for peace, that day has morphed to an honouring of veterans of all wars and an attempt to make it a three-day weekend to “encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production!”

It is fitting to honour veterans who have sacrificed much, including wounded bodies and minds, to defend the nation. It is another thing altogether to find the right way to recognize the service of veterans who have served in the ill-begotten wars of Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and others. Wars that should never have been fought. Veterans who hear the words “Thank you for your service” question what their service was for. In such wars, peace was not and is not being fostered. Death, suffering, and destruction is. For me personally, I sincerely wish that we all could learn to simply live our lives and let others live theirs, avoiding war through ardent, sincere, and wise diplomatic means.

On Sunday, November 11 this year, let us remember Armistice Day (AKA Veterans Day) wherever we are with two minutes of silence at 11:00 am as church bells and chimes everywhere ring out. One hundred years after the Great War that was thought to end all wars, let us remember the horrors of that war and all those that followed and rededicate ourselves to fostering peace.

  1. emphasis added

Note: Quotes are from the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, US Department of Veterans Affairs ( https:// http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory. asp and Congressional documents.

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2 Comments

  1. David Marchesi says:

    It is an unspeakable disgrace that the Establishment has gradually transformed Armistice Day into a day for jingoism. One could note the imposition of what one observer calls “poppy fascism” in the UK- most readers can recall very well the days before the ,in practice, compulsory wearing of red poppies by those appearing on TV for a fortnight before Remembrance day,a sign of the commercialisation of the “event” by the RBL and, though they won’t admit it,a gesture of support for ALL wars [“conflicts”] chosen by the Establishment [Mr Blair being part thereof, of course].
    In France, the suggestions from within their Establishment that colonial wars have not been/are not wholly honourable, shall we say, is greeted with fury by reactionaries. The article above explains how the US master-classes have buried the “Never Again” message of Armistice Day under a shroud of mindless defence of some of the most cruel and unnecessary wars of the last century.
    Instead of official commemorations, we need a two minutes’ silence at 11 o’clock on 11 November by all-with adults who understand the significance of the occasion recounting its origin to younger people. As George McGovern remarked “I’m fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in”- and,worse, to Davkill in [“collateral damage”, as in the William Calley case]

  2. Neil Kelly says:

    Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph in London has long been used as a kind of victory parade. Empty words will be mouthed about “defeating evil”. Try telling a Syrian war orphan about how “the guns fell silent over 100 years ago”. That’s why, when we turn up in our VfP jumpers, we get placed late in the running order, behind the Salvation Army, we get kettled by the a conspicuous line of police (God knows what they think we might do!) and we get abuse from other veterans. Effectively, our very presence is seen as a rebuke, calling bullshit on the whole thing.

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