Letters to the Editor in response to “Why I don’t Celebrate Veterans Day,” Opinion of Noelle Avena


Maintaining the Meaning of Veterans Day

Submission By: MR. HERNANDEZ

I hope there will always be a role for the voice of pacificism and civil disobedience in the United States. We are still influenced by those values today. They ask us to consider all options to avoid war. It is also accurate that those values have been voiced since the founding of our nation. What is also true is that the United States has never gone twenty years since its founding without being at war. While Washington did warn us against permanent alliances and wars in Europe, his and every generation have fought in wars that were justified, the Barbary Wars, and as your article put it “morally gray,” Vietnam.

It is true that peace was one focus of Armistice Day. In 1919, at the first commemoration of Armistice Day, President Woodrow Wilson stated that the end of the conflict provided the world an “opportunity to reconstruct its shattered order and to work out in peace a new and more just set of international relations.” However, at that same commemoration Wilson stated that the day was also an opportunity to remember the soldiers and people who sacrificed to “uphold the barrier of civilization against the aggressions of armed force.” I argue that Wilson encouraged Americans to reflect on peace and the service of veterans and people of their countries to earn and maintain that peace. On Veterans Day, we are encouraged to do both.

I disagree that the movement away from Armistice Day was caused by the need to change the narrative about the Korean and Vietnam War. The effort to change the name was begun in 1946 by a veteran of World War II, Raymond Weeks, to include in this day all those that have served honorably in the armed forces. He delivered a draft proposing the name change to then Army Chief of Staff Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower supported the draft and would later, as President, sign the bill that changed the name. President Eisenhower communicated his appreciation to Weeks for maintaining the original meaning of Armistice Day, “that peace is something to be secured and perpetuated by thought and work and sacrifice.” When reading the words of Wilson and Eisenhower, we see the themes of both the call to vigorously pursue peace and the unfortunate reality that at times that peace must be secured by a barrier. I would argue that our veterans are one part of that barrier.

No one should be coercing you to celebrate Veterans Day in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. That would be the antithesis of the day. It’s patriotic to challenge each other to maintain the meaning of the day and to do our best to ensure that when we do act as a nation, we act as a barrier for civilization and not an aggressor. In having these conversations, I believe we are honoring the original spirit of the day, by exercising the rights that our veterans volunteer to secure.


Why I Do Celebrate Veterans Day

An Alternate Perspective to Avena’s Article

Submission By: RILEY WALSH

Regardless of your stance on international diplomacy issues, you must acknowledge that a strong military deters foreign countries from initiating conflict, and the formation of a military requires brave individuals to leave their loved ones to join the military. That means that some individuals must be prepared to fight and die.

I think that the narrative surrounding Armistice Day was changed to encompass all members of the military; be it these wartime veterans, peacetime veterans, the humanitarian Coast Guard, or any other service members that protect the Constitution and American citizens.

In my opinion, being anti-war and not supportive of the military are not the same thing. Politicians make the decisions to enter war; some wrong and some right. The veterans put their lives on the line to execute those decisions. Politicians should be criticized for being overly belligerent, not the military. Veterans should be supported for their selflessness and dedication.

I also believe that celebrating veterans is not glorifying war. The celebration of veterans is different in different locations. In elementary schools, veterans are treated to coffee and doughnuts before speaking to the students about their experiences. Veterans will alter their delivery of these experiences based on their audience, just as Veterans Day celebrations are delivered differently to different audiences. High school students should have a more complex relationship with Veterans Day than ribbons and bright music. “Celebrating” a holiday is much more nuanced than you describe it to be.

Lastly, by choosing to not “celebrate” Veterans Day, you are employing the freedoms that Veterans put their life on the line for, and because of their sacrifices, you can make a choice.

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