Armistice Day Has Morphed Into Veterans Day* – “Thank You For Your Service!”

November 11, 2013

“Thank you for your service.” For more than the three decades that I have publicly acknowledged being a veteran, I continue to hear over and over this professed appreciation. Recently I was admitted to the Portland, VA hospital and once completing her medical intake interview the attending physician made sure she thanked me for my service. I cringed. My service? She had left my room before I could compose an honest response. Nothing I did while in my 3 years, 11 months and 17 days of military functioning could be even closely defined as service – not to the US people, not to the people of the world, and certainly not to myself. And the implicit, if not explicit message is a thank you to veterans for preserving “our freedom.”

In 2012 the Pentagon (Department of War) launched a thirteen-year national Vietnam War Commemoration public relations project (until 2025) explicitly designed to justify, glorify and honor the Viet Nam War, including its soldiers. In fact, it is a poorly masked effort to obliterate from our memory the egregiously criminal US war, and the popular GI and citizen opposition to it. This effort has likely made such thank yous a more pronounced ubiquitous policy. Eradicating memory is a long historical pattern of imperial powers.

It is a shame that the public seems unwilling to grasp that virtually all our military adventures are lawless, imperial barbarisms, violently robbing others of their freedom and autonomy enabling the US people to continue living in fantastic opulence justified by a sense of exceptionalism while we callously outsource the consequential pain and suffering inflicted on innocent others and the sacred earth. Our veteran “service” does not protect our “freedoms”, though it does preserve freedom to rob, pillage, and rape, destroying and repressing others devoid of genuine diplomacy or “democracy”.

Since World War II alone, the US military has intervened at the direction of our President, funded by Congress and the US American people, at least 390 times against dozens of sovereign countries in violation of both domestic and international laws while bombing 28 of them, and launching thousands of covert interventions to boot. All have been criminal, conducted with virtual total impunity while murdering and impoverishing millions. A diabolical history beyond comprehension.

My role during the Viet Nam war consisted first of designing security procedures for new weapons systems while sitting in an air conditioned Air Force headquarters office, then later functioning as a night security commander of a US air force base in Viet Nam’s hot and humid Mekong Delta where I was protecting invasive death machines from indigenous attacks enabling infliction of their violent power to destroy inhabited, undefended fishing villages, murdering and maiming thousands of innocents. In effect, I was a complicit cog in a vast murder money-making machine organizing genocide against people I knew virtually nothing about, people simply seeking preservation of their own self-determination from outside imperial, lawless forces. That I was brainwashed and duped is an understatement, but I quickly realized the absurdity and criminality of my participation. Thus, it is painful to hear the persistent “thank yous” which in fact serve only to justify an unthinking continued support of US wars, ad nauseum. This absurd habit of thanking veterans for our service performs a terrible disservice to a genuine search for a truthful national history.

*Known as “The Great War”, World War I ceased with an armistice effective on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.” In 1926, Congress passed resolution with the words: “the 11th of November 1918 marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals … and it is fitting that … this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving … designed to perpetuate peace …” A 1938 law made every November 11th a legal holiday to be … celebrated as “Armistice Day.” But sixteen years later, in 1954, following the Korean War, veterans service organizations pressured Congress to strike out the word “Armistice” and insert in its place the word “Veterans.”


12 Comments

  1. Lois Sunflower
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    thanks for this great piece, and the history of the true meaning of the day.

  2. hap bockelie
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 5:03 am | Permalink

    my brother brian. words fail me, as they obviously haven’t you. but i’m one of millions moved by your cold clear eye and ability to say what needs to be said. and only the deepest love of humanity can possibly be what has you to speak and act in such a courageous, thoughtful and useful way. please don’t stop. we need you. thank you. i will copy, paste, post and disseminate your message as widely as i can. hap bockelie

  3. Chris Pforr
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Wow! Thank you Brian, that was very moving.

  4. Linda Foley
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    What I want to say to a veteran is something along these lines – - I marched with millions of others around the world to protest and try to prevent both these wars. I knew our soldiers would be called upon to do horrible things. We failed. I failed. I am sorry for what my government has forced you to do. I am glad you made it home alive. Please forgive me.

  5. richard macdonald
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    So profoundly stated. The “patriotic” public needs to hear your message more times than they ever will. We have been duped into hating the poor, swilling our drugs, and playing with our tech toys while our masters remain largely hidden, and proceed in their rape of the world through military power. And the professional army that exists now doesn’t even have the disgruntled drafted citizens to protest what they’re called upon to do. Thanks for the message. Because you were there, it has power.

  6. Posted November 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Brian, This is beautiful/horrible. I have been thinking a lot about how the recent rhetorical honorization of vets is a cynical ploy to keep the war machine going. It does nothing to honor vets, especially the million or so in the VA backlog, homeless, and struggling to survive in a culture that so cruelly uses them. It is perpetually heartbreaking. Keep up the good work, brother.

  7. Nigel Dandridge-Perry
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Nigel Dandridge-Perry I cannot help but think that the “than you” day should be for those who are caregivers like nurses and doctors firemen and paramedics and people who help overseas by teaching and giving care. Soldiers who were drafted I would include but not the professional military. Yes they are brave but in the current scheme of things they are NOT DEFENDERS The Defence Dept is a lie. It should still be called WAR MINISTRYor DEPT.I think the last time it was ever a Defence Dept was in 1945. The only good use of the military is as it is being used in Phillipines now as a rescue mission, even though that is not what it is designed for.

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