Veterans Day Education


Veterans Day should educate about lessons of war

By Sam Johnson

     Were half the power that fills the world with terror,
          Were half the wealth bestowed on camps and courts
     Given to redeem the human mind from error,
          There were no need of arsenals or forts.

                                         --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

     This quote serves us well as we prepare to celebrate Veteran's Day and American Education Week coming up.
    
It suggests that the way to establish a lasting peace is through education.
    
It suggests that if we take just half the money we spend on building arsenals and weapons systems and used that money instead to educate our young people about the history of war and the follies of war, we might be better able to avoid war.
    
It suggests that if we take just half the power and effort used by nations to instill fear and distrust in people and used that power instead to educate, to foster friendship, to disarm the hearts and minds of mankind of hatred and the false values of destruction, then that Armistice signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month might mean more than just an annual day of parades, pledges, prayers and two minutes of silence.

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     There's a sad bit of irony to the following statement attributed to a young schoolboy who wrote on his history exam, "The Armistice was signed on the 11th of November in 1918, and since then every year there has been two minutes of peace."
    
Part of the irony lies in the fact that since the signing of the Armistice of World War I, "The War to end all Wars," there has been constant fighting going on somewhere in the world, and of course we've suffered through World War II, the Korean conflict, the cold war, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Invasion of Afghanistan, and the Invasion of Iraq, as well as numerous smaller battles, many of which are still being waged. And of course hostilities and distrust continue throughout the world.
    
But the other part of the irony revealed by this schoolboy's glimpse of truth, is the underlying purpose for Armistice Day, which the student obviously didn't understand, and which many people today fail to observe.
    
Armistice Day, originally designed to mark the cessation of hostilities in World War I and celebrated on Nov. 11th since 1918, was changed to Veteran's Day in 1954 to commemorate the service of those who have fought in all the wars.
    
It's a national day set aside to remember those devastating conflicts, the soldiers who fought in them, and the results they wrought.
     It's a time designed for serious reflection on the meaning of war and peace and the responsibilities we have to see that the same mistakes aren't made.
    
The problem, as I see it, is that we really don't do these things on Veteran's Day.
    
It has become merely another "day off work," another "vacation from school" another "holiday" no longer "holy," sacred or much observed for what it was intended, except perhaps by the few remaining Armistice survivors and other veterans who will gather to salute the flag, say a few prayers and offer a moment of silence.
    
For the majority of people, however, the young and middle-aged who "weren't involved" don't' know, don't remember, or don't care, it will be "business as usual," a day to go shopping and cash in on the "Veteran's Day Sales," a chance for a three-day weekend, more time to kill deer, ducks and geese.
    
Even the parades have disappeared for the most part.
    
And that's too bad, for the real reasons for Veteran's Day -- a time to reflect on the story of the Armistice, a time to study the lessons of war -- are lost to the people who need most to know them, the people who will lead us into the future.
    
They need to know these lessons so the same mistakes are not made.
    
And as Longfellow suggests in the lines written above, education is the way to “redeem the human mind from error.”
    
To that goal, Veterans Day should be a "teachable moment" with the focus on educating about the hard lessons of war.
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