Veterans Day 2007

Children learn it like a nursery rhyme: the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. That was when the first world war effectively ended, in 1918. After unbearable slaughter, at least twenty million people dead and millions more left as refugees, the war to end all wars was exhausted with a truce, an armistice. It became a day to remember.

Armistice Day became Veterans Day after the second world war. Children were brought to parades and gravesides, to honor the courage of graying men and to hear a bugle play Taps for those who should have been there, but were not. Children continued to grow up in a world of war, many to fight themselves.

So in this nation presently at war, too many families continue to face the tragic news that their sons and daughters will not come back from Iraq, from Afghanistan, from missions that divide the citizenry. More than 3,850 Americans who volunteered for service have been killed. More than 28,000 have been injured. Conservative estimates put the Iraqi civilian death toll at over 100,000 people. Parents today worry about children becoming unnaturally familiar with the terms suicide bomb and rocket attack.

This week, as conflicts in Pakistan, Iran, Turkey threatened to inflame global conflagration, at the Vineyard Haven ferry terminal celebrations greeted the safe return of Army Spc. Chris Brown after a tour in the Mideast. At least twelve Islanders have served in Iraq.

Monday is a day for all to reflect, to pledge compassion and care for those who survive, and to dare to hope for the relief of peace again for our children.