Veterans Day: Honoring Veterans on November 12?

Honoring Veterans on November 12

By Erin Lale

Veterans Day is actually November 11, but on Monday, November 12, dozens of restaurants across the Vegas valley are honoring veterans with free meals. It’s a way for local businesses to say thank you to our veterans. There has traditionally been an Honoring Veterans Powwow in Las Vegas every year, but the event is skipping this year.

Originally, Nov. 11 was not a day to honor war veterans but a day to celebrate peace. It marked the end of World War I, which was known at that time as the War to End All Wars. 11-11-11, the eleventh hour in the eleventh day in the eleventh month, was the date the peace treaty that ended World War I was signed, and the date was known as Armistice Day. The meaning of this holiday changed after another war came and the world realized that the War to End All Wars had not in fact ended all wars forever. This holiday, begun in relief that there would never be another war in the world, transmuted to a holiday to honor those who continue to fight in all the wars since.

Originally, Armistice Day was a celebration. The solemn ceremonies to honor the warriors took place on Memorial Day, which is in the spring. Other countries have solemn ceremonies on Memorial Day, but in America, in the spring, the urge to celebrate the renewal of life will not be denied. So grocery stores sell Memorial Day celebration cupcakes. We have barbecues. While Memorial Day is supposed to be for the war dead and Veterans’ Day, Nov. 11, for the living war veterans, the dates on which these holidays happen to fall affect the psychology of the people attempting to honor the warriors by making springtime Memorial Day a celebration and autumnal Veterans’ Day the solemn day of honoring the heroes. However, part of this is also a sort of Ragnarok spirit in which living warriors are to be respected and the act of dying in war is to be celebrated. A day to mark the deaths of members of the military becomes a day of revelry and shopping, while a celebration of the end of war becomes a solemn day to honor the warriors.

The most amazing thing about this transformation from solemn Memorial Day and victory-celebration Armistice Day to merry barbecue-party Memorial Day and solemn Veterans’ Day is that it took less than 100 years to get from there to here. Tradition looks back no further than the oldest living memory among us, despite all our books, and present custom evolved within a single lifetime. The merriment of spring and the dignity of fall are so psychologically powerful that they supercede the actual reasons and history of our holidays. When it comes to marking war and peace, it is nature that has won. Despite all our technology, despite living in a post-industrial culture in which we no longer seem dependent on the seasonal cycles of agriculture, Americans remain connected to our land and its seasons. So today, we honor veterans in the spirit of thankfulness that pervades November and upcoming Thanksgiving. To my friends and family who are veterans, I say, thank you. And have some pie.

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