The forgotten meaning of Veterans Day [Letter]

November 13, 2013

In 1918, at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, guns all over the world fell silent and the whole world experienced peace and hope. A French Christmas carol recalls the feeling in the "le monde entier tressaille d'espérance," which roughly translates as "the entire world trembles with hope."

For about 30 years in this country, Nov. 11th was celebrated as Armistice Day. The name referred to the peace instrument that ended what we called "The World War" and thought of then as "the war to end all wars."

After we learned that it was only the first such war, we kept the holiday but started calling it Veterans Day, so that the veterans of the Second World War would be included in the honor shown the veterans of the first. All the wars since then have contributed their share of honorees, and the day became one of extolling military virtue and sacrifice. The earlier association of the holiday with hopes for peace disappeared entirely.

This year Nov. 11 was a banking holiday and an occasion for mass merchandising sales. When any historic reference is made, it tends to be the sort calculated to inspire enlistment into the military. It's too bad that we have lost even the memory of the Armistice and what Nov. 11 once meant to the world.

James Dunn, Baltimore

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