November 13, 2013 —
November 11, Veterans Day, and we at The River Reporter are thinking not only about the brave veterans we honor on this day for their service, sacrifice, and commitment, we are thinking not only those who have died in war, but we are thinking, too, about peace and the world’s urgent need for it.
Those who know their history will recall the original name for this holiday was Armistice Day, and the date, November 11 was chosen to remember the ceasefire on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, when the Allied Nations and Germany signed an armistice to end the hostilities of World War I. The following year President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the day Armistice Day. In 1921, Congress passed legislation declaring November 11 as a day to honor all those who participated in the World War I, and in 1938, Armistice Day became a legal federal holiday. That 1938 legislation set aside this date as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’” Finally, in 1954 Congress changed the name to Veterans Day and President Dwight Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day proclamation.
Eisenhower, the American five-star general who was the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe in WWII before he was elected president in 1953, warned the American people in 1961 about the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry [that] is new in the American experience…. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
That warning seems relevant today, when America’s annual military budget is almost $1 trillion. When we look at President Obama’s proposed 2013 federal budget for discretionary spending, i.e. the funds over which Congress has a choice for spending, approximately 57% of the budget goes to the Department of Defense, to prosecuting war and to maintaining America’s nuclear weapons. The next largest percentage, 5.3% of the discretionary budget, goes to veterans’ benefits, followed by 6.3% for education, 5.6% for government, 5.5% for housing and community; 4.9% for health, 3.7% for international affairs, 3.2% for energy and environment, 2.6% for science, 2.4% for labor, 2.4% for transportation and 1.2% for food and agriculture.
This week, as we honor our veterans, we also choose to pray for peace. We believe that the American public desires a peaceful future, and so we ask those who are reading this to begin to talk about peace and for those who are willing, to begin to work for peace.