Turns out that Maine VFP were allowed to participate in the Veterans Day Parade in Portland, so long as they had no signs other than their identifying flag.
Happy Veterans Day. Now Go Wage Peace, Not War.
As Veterans Day approaches, I am feeling increasingly reflective – or perhaps argumentative is more accurate – about issues that are close to my heart year-round, and acutely aware of the wave of patriotic remembrance that sweeps this country around November 11.
The history of Veterans Day stretches back to the end of World War I, known at the time as “The Great War.” Though the war officially ended on June 28, 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the bloody, drawn-out military engagements that constituted the war actually ceased seven months before the signing, when an armistice went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. This date became known as Armistice Day, and was remembered as the “end of the war to end all wars.”
In 1938 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law an act marking November 11 of each year as Armistice Day, a legal holiday dedicated “to the cause of world peace” according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
A day dedicated to the cause of world peace? I haven’t seen much of that in Novembers past. The most ironic part of this little history lesson, in my opinion at least, is in the change of name for the holiday: in the United States, November 11 was renamed Veterans Day on June 1, 1954, after the Korean War ended.
1954: that’s after World War II, which required “the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history.” That’s after the Korean War, where US deployment exceeded 300,000 and at least 36,600 members of the US military were killed in action. That’s after 44 incidents of US military operations in countries around the world, including China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Palestine and Panama. That’s a mere 15 months before Vietnam War began.
That’s a lot of military action in the 35 years following “the war to end all wars.”
Now here we are, nine years into the War in Afghanistan, seven years into the War in Iraq, and apparently we haven’t learned much at all from history.
Starting on November 3, Veterans for Peace held a peace walk through the state called the Maine Walk for Peace, Human Needs and Veterans Care. The walk, designed to raise awareness of the growing strain on the US as a result of these wars, ended on Veterans Day in Portland, and passed through 43 towns en route.
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have cost the people of these 43 Maine towns approximately $640 million over the past nine years. The peace walk hopes to encourage Maine citizens to imagine how those funds could have been used across our state for education, health care, job creation, fixing roads and bridges, and more.
Since 2001, the citizens of Maine have paid more than $2.94 billion for war: where would YOU have wanted to see that money go?
I don’t know about you guys, but I can think of a dozen things that money could have gone to – and I’m pretty sure I’m not smarter than Congress – as well as a dozen reasons why such an inconceivable amount of money should NOT have gone to the Department of Defense, which isn’t as defense-oriented as its name would suggest.
So why the addiction to spending our money on the military? The US spends more on its military – $663.8 billion for the 2010 fiscal year – than any other country in the world. The US spends 46.5% of the world’s military spending; China comes in second, with 6.6%
The important thing to remember is this: No matter which political party controls Congress, the war spending rages on. If you want that to change, get out there and make your voice heard. Tell people to bring our war dollars home. Honor Veterans Day the way it was intended, by dedicating yourself to the cause of world peace and voting for those who want to keep our tax dollars here, on US domestic issues, where they belong.