Today is Veteran’s Day. The following editorial was written Bill Distler. Our daughters go to school together; I know how lucky I am to know Bill. Thanks for opening your heart to his wisdom.
Veterans Day has always been difficult for me. Most of us who have been in war don’t get pleasure from talking about it. It’s different in that way from most human activities.
In order to tell a complete and true war story you have to include the fear and confusion, the unfairness of who lives and who dies, and the mistakes that cost people their lives. Most people don’t want to hear about that. They want to hear something soothing so that they don’t have to think too much. That’s where politicians come in.
Many politicians are willing to tell untruths about veterans and war. They thank us for our service. This makes me cringe. I know that everyone reaches different conclusions about their actions, but in my judgement, my time in Vietnam did not provide a service to my country. I’ve tried in my own way over the years to make up for the shortsightedness of my youth by working for peace with groups like Veterans For Peace.
I don’t want anyone to thank me for being in Vietnam because they don’t know what I did. Only I know that, and if anyone asks, I’ll try to describe it as honestly as I can. You probably won’t like what you hear, but the truth about war should be hard, if not impossible to listen to without being moved to work for peace.
Veterans Day used to be called Armistice Day. Armistice Day marked the end of the slaughter of 15 million soldiers and civilians in World War I. It was also a day set aside to pray for world peace. There was a recognition that the suffering caused by war descended mainly on the children of the countries where wars were fought.
Veterans Day puts the focus on soldiers. But an honest accounting would put the focus on all victims of war, especially children. Children don’t start wars, but they are the ones who lose the most. They lose their homes and villages, they lose their parents and siblings, they lose their limbs, and they lose their trust in the ability of adults to keep them safe.
Today, many of our younger veterans are hurting. Words of thanks may help, but jobs, housing, and health care for veterans and their families would help even more. We should also fulfill our responsibility to the wounded and homeless children of Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, if we paid to repair all the human damage that war causes, we wouldn’t have enough money left to fight the next war, and that would be good.
But where can we get the money needed to repair the damage? Here is a very modest proposal. Victims of war don’t profit from war, but our weapons makers do. Why don’t we ask our large weapons-making corporations to turn over their profits from war to a “Returning Soldiers and Children’s Fund”? Private charity is good, but it can only make a dent in this problem. Wouldn’t our weapons makers welcome the opportunity to use their war profits to help repair the damage that their products have caused? ~~~ Bill Distler
I am grateful to Bill for his permission to post his editorial on this blog. Feel free to thank him publicly with a comment on this site or by contacting him privately at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-224-3579.
8 thoughts on “Veteran’s Day”
Great post! So true in every point for me.
Thanks to you both, Bill and Lisa
Thanks, Verena. All blessings to you and yours, Lisa
11/11/11 Thanks Bill for your sharing and your honesty. I agree with you and realize that after more than 50 years of working for “shalom” we still have a long way to go.
11/11/11 Thanks for your voice Bill. May your spirit multiply and cover the face of the earth.
Wonderful vision, Rod, of this spirit multiplying and covering the face of the earth. Many thanks, Lisa
Dear Lisa, Thank you so much for posting this amazing piece by Bill Distler. The perspective it provides is insightful, heartfelt, and deeply honest.
Thanks for taking time to write, Krista. I’m with you — here’s to more illumination of heartfelt and insightful honesty in all of our families and communities. All blessings to you and yours as well, Lisa
The following comment is from an e-mail that Bill sent to me yesterday. He originally wrote this essay as an editorial for the Seattle Times. I’m including as a p.s. on this post from Bill with his permission:
“The Seattle Times did publish two essays on Fri. and Sat. for Veterans Day, one by First Gentleman of Washington State, Mark Gregoire (a Vietnam veteran), and one by Patty Murray (head of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee). I found both of them to be, to put it politely, unsatisfying. Both were about helping veterans to find jobs without mentioning that there aren’t any jobs. Neither admits that there aren’t enough jobs to go around. Instead, they offer ideas to give veterans an advantage over other people struggling to find work. Another way to pit working people against each other for resources that should be shared but instead are hoarded by the spiritually poor, sometimes called The Rich.”