11 Answers about Veterans Day
- What is Veterans Day?
Veterans Day is the day on which we honor and remember veterans of the US Armed Forces. Veterans Day is always on November 11, but if the day falls on a Sunday then November 12 is a federal holiday.
2. What is the history of Veterans Day?
The film Out of Africa, which is set against a fairly accurate historical backdrop, features a scene between Denys George Finch Hatton and Berkeley Cole at the outbreak of World War I. Finch Hatton (Robert Redford) and Cole (Michael Kitchen) discuss employing as scouts the Somalis with whom Berkeley works. Denys, however, quickly pivots to whether they should get involved at all.
Berkeley: They’d make very good scouts. We could cover the area from here to the Border. We could gather information for when the regulars arrive.
Denys: What’s it about? Have you any idea?
Berkeley: [embarrassed chuckle] Not really.
Denys: Well then why do you want to get into it?
Denys: It’s got nothing to do with us, Berkeley. They’ve made agreements we know nothing about. Victoria and the Kaiser are relatives for God’s sake. They divided Africa between them. Do you know why there’s a border? Because she had two mountains and he had none, so she gave him Kilimanjaro. It’s a silly argument between two spoiled countries
Berkeley: The sooner we do this, the sooner it ends, the sooner we pick up where we left off.
Denys: It may end, but we’re not going to pick up where we left off.
We’re taught in school that the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand set off the powder keg that started World War I, but the murder of one human being, tragic as that may be, does not justify a war in which twenty million people die. Nobody foresaw the carnage that would happen when new weapons technology was unleashed on real human bodies.
Nobody, especially the men in the trenches, had any real idea what the war was actually about. The Emperors’ new clothes were the fluffy patriotic rationalizations for enlisting and fighting— they boiled down to doublespeak. Denys’s characterization of it as a family quarrel is far more accurate than the powder keg model. The men in the trenches, who spent their time alternating between spells of fighting and long stretches of boredom, had plenty of time to wonder why they were there and to come up empty.
If there was any cause, it was a case of empire envy, a Freudian political dysfunction, and Germany had come up short in a time when the entire world had been sliced up like a pie with West European nations and the US owning slices of varying sizes. Over most of the world one European flag or another flew. Ostensibly independent nations — the gray areas, especially Latin America held under US sway — were herded by bankers backed by the imminent threat of invasion.
“But the deeper causes,” Burt Solomon wrote for The Atlantic in July 27, 2014, lay in
the greed of rich belligerents trying to get richer. W.E.B. Du Bois, the black writer and activist, said it was the competition over resource-rich colonies in Africa. It was a struggle between liberty and autocracy (although czarist Russia’s alliance with France and England undercut that argument). It was because mankind’s moral instincts — this was philosopher and pacifist Bertrand Russell’s view — lagged behind its material wealth. It was Germany’s psychological insecurity, triggered by Britain’s naval supremacy and the fear of Russia’s rising might. It was, simply, the insanity of the only carnivorous species that kills its own kind for no good reason.
When the war ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 the victors stupidly and severely punished Germany without any thought to how leaving bad blood on the table would lead to problems in the future. The gap between the Great War Parts 1 & 2–1918 to 1939 — was 21 years, just enough time to raise a new crop of young men to fight.
Though the armistice was actually only a ceasefire that had to be renewed several times until a formal peace treaty was signed at Versailles in 1919, everyone celebrated Armistice Day as the anniversary of the end of the war. After the end of the Great War, Part 2, in 1945, the significance of November 11 was extended to recognize all veterans and not just those of World War I, and the day was renamed Veterans Day. Since the American Civil War, Memorial Day has served to remember those who died in war, while Veterans Day celebrates the living and the dead who have served.
3. What are the top 11 Veterans Day songs?
The Nation, keeping in mind that “the best way to support the troops is to make every effort to keep them out of harm’s way,” lists these ten:
1) Bill Withers, I Can’t Write Left-Handed.
2) Bob Dylan, Masters of War.
3) Phil Ochs, I Ain’t Marching Anymore.
4) Edwin Starr, War.
5) Eric Bogle, The Green Fields of France.
6) Freda Payne, Bring the Boys Home.
7) Vera Lynn, White Cliffs of Dover.
8) Bob Marley, War.
9) Loretta Lynn, Dear Uncle Sam
10) Stiff Little Fingers, Tin Soldiers
In one of his Anthropocene Reviewed podcasts, John Green talks about a version of Auld Lang Syne that features absurdly simple & repetitive lyrics: “We’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here…” One imagines being shitfaced drunk on New Year’s Eve & unable to sing anything else. Yet the lyrics arose in the depths of the trenches, in the mud, in the ever-present fear of imminent death, in a meaningless World War I that, if it didn’t rip a body to shreds, sucked the soul to an abject and dessicated emptiness. So “We’re here because we’re here…” expresses that feeling of moribund fatalism & resignation in fighting a war in which millions of people were dying for no discernible reason.
I assembled a playlist on Spotify of all the tunes listed here, including “We’re Here Because We’re Here.”
4. Why are remembrance poppies worn?
The origin of the poppy as a symbol by which to remember veterans, particularly those who died in the line of duty, lies in the John McCrae poem, “In Flanders Fields”:
McCrae wrote the poem in 1915 after presiding over the funeral of a friend and comrade in arms.
A field of poppies where a battle happened is a powerful image in which the bright blood flowers represent both the fallen men and the blood they shed. The event is commemorated by nature itself.
Moina Michael, a professor at the University of Georgia, had volunteered to work with the American YMCA Overseas War Secretaries Organization. The poem inspired her to write one of her own, “We Shall Keep the Faith,” and she vowed to always wear a red poppy. She campaigned for the adoption of the poppy as a national symbol of remembrance. The American Legion committed to using the flower. A Frenchwoman, Madame Guérin, spoke to the American Legion as well and won license for the sale of silk poppies made by the widows and children of war-torn regions of France. She also successfully campaigned for the remembrance poppy throughout the British Empire, and eventually all the victorious countries of World War I were using the poppy as a symbol to raise funds for charity.
The poppies were far more prevalent in countries outside the US, where, in recent years, it has faded almost completely.
5. What restaurants offer deals for veterans on Veterans Day?
Veterans should keep a couple of things in mind. First, you need some sort of documentation that proves your status as veteran or active service. Second, many restaurants offer benefits for present and former service members year-round and not just on Veterans Day. Never hesitate to ask if a restaurant offers discounts for veterans. Your country is so indebted to you for your service that a free meal now and then is the least we can do. It’s best to call ahead to confirm the offer and avoid surprises later. Much of the information in this section comes from the Military Benefits web site.
Here are just a few of the discounts available to you: free Red, White, & Blue Pancakes at IHOP. Chili’s offers a free meal from a select menu. Denny’s will let you build your own Grand Slam breakfast between 5am and noon. Olive Garden will buy you a meal, including unlimited soup or salad and breadsticks from a Veterans Day menu. Little Caesar’s will give you a free $5 HOT-N-READY® Lunch Combo. Most Subway Subs will give you a free six-inch sub — but this varies depending upon the franchise. Chipotle Grill offers a BOGO on burritos, bowls, salads, and tacos. Red Lobster has a free appetizer or dessert from their Veterans Day menu. Panera is offering deals for veterans, but it varies from store to store and state to state, so call first.
I can imagine planning this all out and driving from restaurant to restaurant until stuffed with pancakes, Mexican and Italian food, and pastry and coffee.
6. What stores offer year-round discounts to veterans and active duty servicemen ?
Many discounts are available year-round and not just on Veterans Day. As with the restaurants, you need some sort of documentation that proves your status as veteran or active service. Many discounts also extend to police, firemen, and other first responders. Much of the information in this section comes from the Military Benefits web site.
Home Depot offers a 10% OFF military discount on regularly priced merchandise for in-store purchases for active duty, retired military, and reservists at participating locations.
Participating Meineke Car Care Centers will provide free Basic oil changes to all veterans and active-duty military personnel, as well as spouses of deployed members. The service includes up to five quarts of motor oil, an oil filter, a 23-point inspection an air pressure check for all tires and a tire rotation.
Lowe’s now offers a 10% military discount to all active duty military members, members of the Guard and Reserve, retired military members and their immediate family members. The 10% Lowe’s discount also applies to veterans who served honorably, as well as and their families.
7. What stores offer deals for veterans on Veterans Day?
This list of deals comes mostly from the Military Benefits web site. As with the restaurant deals, you should bring your ID or documentation and call ahead to be sure the discount is offered locally. Most of the deals listed here are valid only on Veterans Day.
- Academy Sports & Outdoor — 10% discount
- Albertsons — 10% discount
- Bed Bath and Beyond — 25% discount
- Big Al’s — free bowling
- Cabela’s Hometown Heroes — 5% discount
- Dell — 15% discount
- Dollar General — 11% discount
- Duane Reade — 20% discount
- Eyemart Express — 20% discount
- Lowe’s Home Improvement — 10% discount
- Amazon Prime and Costco both offer significant discounts on memberships.
8. What about discounts close to me?
Google: what veterans day discounts are available near me? This will flush out local opportunities that you might not see on broad national lists.
9. What closes on Veterans Day?
Veterans Day is a federal holiday in the United States. It’s observed in every state except Wisconsin. If the 11th falls on a Sunday, then the holiday is observed on the 12th. There is no mail service, and banks are closed.
School closures depend upon state and local governments. Schools in Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, and Washington, D.C, for examples, are not in session on, November 11.
10. Vietnam Veterans Day
Veterans of the Vietnam War have their own day on March 29. The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, signed into law in 2017.
11. We’re really sorry we did that.
Holidays like Memorial Day and Veterans Day remember people who served and sometimes died for their country. These are noble sacrifices that should never be forgotten.
The holidays are also ways of saying, “Man, we’re really sorry we did that.”
Yet we don’t analyze the root cause of war, and if we do, we don’t do anything about it. Imagine a neighborhood Safeway a few blocks away from your house. One day Kroger shows up with a convoy of trucks, tanks, and advanced weapons. Half the men in your neighborhood between the ages of 18 and 35 are in Kroger uniforms and carrying guns to effect a Kroger takeover. Meanwhile, the other half of the young men are fighting to protect Safeway. While this is going on, you and your family cannot shop for food, so you move as refugees to another suburb. Unfortunately that town is very xenophobic, and everyone there believes that people from your neighborhood are rapists, thieves, and drug dealers — the demagogue mayor of that suburb has told them so. That other town might even jail your children and send you back to the war zone.
This is absurd, but it’s a good model for what happens. Wars happen among whole countries and whole economies in competition for resources and markets.
After the shooting stops, at the heart of saying we're sorry we did all that, is the faintest glimmer of hope and promise that maybe we won't do it again even though the governments who demand our loyalty and taxes and who restrict our immigration demand we yield our children for their death marches.
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