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On the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, at the eleventh hour in 1918, hostilities in World War I ceased under an accorded armistice. Also known as “The Great War”, given its unseen brutality (for that time), this global conflict was characterized by many as “the war to end all wars”. Premised upon that belief, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the following year, on the 11th of November, the commemoration of Armistice Day.
This celebration of a “peace agreement-process” ignored the historical fact that most wars are ultimately fought because of flawed political policies drafted in peacetime. After two excruciating and back-to-back wars to fight the evils of fascism and communism in World War II (1939-1945) and the Korean War (1950-1953), the 83rd American Congress in 1954 passed legislation (Public Law 380) amending the 1938 act which designated November 11, a federal holiday. Of seminal importance was the substitution of the word “Armistice” for “Veterans”.
Since genuine “peace” can only be found in a state of justice where there is freedom, the certitude that only a soldier can secure that real peace when the perils to a free society are of the greatest gravity, the replacement of a national commemoration for veterans instead of a vague and abstract “peace” chimera, could not be more fitting.
Often confused with Memorial Day which is a solemn festivity which honors all those that have given their life for their country while serving in the Armed Forces (celebrated on the first Monday in May), Veteran’s Day honors all persons, living and dead, who have served in each of America’s military branches. While affording the ultimate sacrifice is the requisite for being honored on Memorial Day, a great many veterans that do not die in combat bear, nonetheless, the scars of war and pay a huge, lifetime price so that many can be free and live peacefully in a just society. Thus, the importance of Veteran’s Day which serves to highlight the contributions made by soldiers, airmen, and sailors is paramount to the permanency of a free republic.
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Over 45 million persons have served in the United States Armed Forces, according to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, since 1775 (updated 2016). Fighting in over 13 major wars, dozens of other smaller armed conflicts, and targeted maneuvers, as well as assisting freedom fighters and partaking in joint and multilateral defense operations across the planet, it is safe to conclude that, for the most part, the gratitude owed to an American soldier, is a global obligation.
Americans are keen on appreciating the service of the military to the nation. Undoubtedly, this upsets America-haters and other deconstructionists. A March 2019 Pew Research poll shows that 72 % of Americans support being generous with veteran’s benefits programs, more so than with other social spending schemes. A grateful society to the peacekeepers and defenders of freedom has become a hallmark of America, as witnessed by the monuments, parks, museums, and commemoration events throughout the national territory.
Often said and not often enough pondered on, the truth is that freedom is not free. The extract from the Pledge of Allegiance, “…and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all”, conveys an awesome responsibility to the entire citizenry. However, it falls in greater weight upon the shoulders of the Armed Forces to face those gravest of threats to uphold that oath to the United States flag, nation, and the American way of life. After thanking God, when you see a military service person, active-duty or retired, say thank you soldier! Soldiers are America’s freedom guardians.
Julio M Shiling, political scientist, writer, director of Patria de Martí and The Cuban American Voice, lecturer and media commentator. A native of Cuba, he currently lives in the United States. Twitter: @JulioMShiling // Julio es politólogo, escritor, director de Patria de Martí y The Cuban American Voice. Conferenciante y comentarista en los medios. Natural de Cuba, vive actualmente en EE UU.