(This is a re-post, explaining WC’s ambivalence to Veteran’s Day, first posted back in 2012.)
WC’s maternal grandfather served in France in World War I. He wanted nothing to do with Veteran’s Day. He regarded it as a cheapening, a betrayal of Armistice Day. He solemnly, sometimes tearfully, celebrated Armistice Day with a minute of silence at the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of November. He honored the dead. His comrades.
He would have agreed with Kurt Vonnegut, although WC is certain Mike Turk never read Vonnegut.
Vonnegut wrote about Armistice Day turning into Veteran’s Day in Mother Night (1961). It’s the grumpy Vonnegut, not the lovable uncle. But WC likes it for its dead-on criticism of the holiday’s metamorphosis:
“Oh, it’s just so damn cheap, so damn typical.” I said, “This used to be a day in honor of the dead of World War One, but the living couldn’t keep their grubby hands off of it, wanted the glory of the dead for themselves. So typical, so typical. Any time anything of real dignity appears in this country, it’s torn to shreds and thrown to the mob.”
Don’t misunderstand. Mike Turk, Kurt Vonnegut and WC aren’t criticizing U.S. veterans. They deserve their own holiday. But Armistice Day, honoring the dead, the veterans who did not return home, has prior ownership and the higher honor. It’s not too late for Congress to correct the mistake made back in 1954.
Veterans deserve a national holiday. But so do the dead. Let’s give Armistice Day back to those who made the final sacrifice. And create a separate holiday for veterans.