This Veterans Day, I will presume to speak for my brothers and sisters in Veterans for Peace Chapter 54, the crew that gave Santa Barbara the Arlington West display on the beach for many years. Regardless of the results of elections, we support the democratic process, as imperfect as it may be.
This Veterans Day we, as members of Veterans for Peace, will honor our brothers and sisters in arms in a different way, by working to increase public awareness of the costs of war. We will work to restrain our government from intervening, overtly and covertly, in the internal affairs of other nations. We will work to end the arms race and to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons. We will work to seek justice for veterans and victims of war, and to abolish war as an instrument of national policy. This is our mission. So on this November 11th we will not be marching in parades. As Ulysses S. Grant stated: “The one thing I never want to see again is a military parade.”
Instead we want to renew the spirit of Armistice Day and commemorate it “with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” We will reflect on our mission and to move it forward with purpose and commitment. We will be gathering to renew our bonds of service and the bonds forged by a realization that war is obsolete and that peace is the only path to a “more perfect union” with “liberty and justice for all.”
Veterans Day began as Armistice Day. At the11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the butchery of the first world war paused. At the time it was considered the end of the war to end all wars. Sadly it has not been so!
Chapter 54 would not join in were there a parade of military form and equipment. Like U.S. Grant, we are tired of the glorification of war. We are convinced that we can find better uses of our military than war, uses like the help they rendered to flood victims in Pakistan, earthquake victims in Haiti, tsunami victims in Indonesia and most recently with the U.S. Navy’s hospital ships to the cities of New York and Los Angeles during the COVID-19 peaks. They may be needed there again.
I think that we can win more hearts and minds with a disaster relief, humanitarian aid, and civil affairs focus than with bombs and drones. I think that when it comes to the glory of war and weaponry that they see in the military parades, Voltaire had it right when he wrote: “As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities!”
Rowland Lane Anderson, USN Vietnam 1967-1968, is a veterans advocate, lifetime member of Veterans For Peace, a Veterans For Peace international election observer in El Salvador, member of the VFP mission to the Philippines, and now lives in Santa Barbara.