Remembrance Day equals Veterans Day

Remembrance Day
Veterans Day is more aptly named Remembrance Day

Today is Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth of Nations (which includes Canada).

It is a solemn pause in the work week (I hesitate to call it a holiday) when the citizens of Europe, India, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland remember the fallen generation of the Great War (WW1).

Remember: On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month— All quiet on the Western Front.

Remembrance Day
Soldiers preparing for no-mans-land

The horror of that War, still unequalled in the lunacy of human history, was to be remembered for all time with the promise to do such things never again.

Forgive me if I rail about this misnaming every year on Armistice day.

The special day of remembrance and reflection was truly known as Armistice Day in the US until, as an example of the wisdom of Congress, the name was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.

Remembrance Day hurts

The young men of 19 tender years of age that were slaughtered in that war were to be remembered forever. The red poppy became a symbol of the dead in Flanders Fields. Here are the first two verses of the poem that made the red poppy synonymous with the Great War.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Remembrance Day
Human remains are still being found 150 years later

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.”

 

Below is a video featuring LAST POST. A bugle call tied to Remembrance Day.

This past summer my wife and I visited memorials, cemeteries and battlefields in France and Belgium.

At the battle of the Somme, fought between 1 July and 18 November 1916, more than one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history. It is that sacrifice that gave birth to Remembrance Day.

Remembrance Day
Vimy Ridge. The ground still looks like ocean swells from the pounding of shells 150 years ago.

What was lost.

As Americans, we were spared most of the carnage of that war. We entered the last year of the War and, while are casualties were terrible, they paled compared to the massacre of Europe, the British and French Empires.

Remembrance Day
Remembrance Day in London last year.

Perhaps that is why the date is still honored in Canada with its original meaning. Newfoundland, part of the Commonwealth of Nations but not yet (in 1916) part of Canada, had 100% casualties at the Somme.

Every young man from that small province was lost. An entire generation was lost and honored on Remembrance Day.

Never again.

Visit Ypres, the Somme, or Vimy Ridge and those young men who died so young 150 years ago live again. The land is still twisted and scarred.

The dead still lie inches beneath the soil and in perfectly manicured graveyards. Over 1,000 of them. I visited too many to count.

Do we lose something important in our history lesson by calling Remembrance Day (Armistice Day)? Is it Veterans Day? I think we do. We lose the main idea of the day— to reflect on the great losses and promise never again. It is the promise part we miss.

Armistice Day not Veteran’s Day

Armistice Day was a day of Rememberence
Eleven million soldiers died in WW1

Its just a few days Away from November 11th so I have decided to jump the gun and publish my yearly rant on the loss we all suffered when Armistice Day became renamed Veteran’s Day.  I get more nasty comments from my blog on this subject than anything else I write in the course of a year. That is because people do not READ. If they do read, they lack the capacity to see past their own preconceptions. I am not anti-American and I do not disparage veterans. I am a brand man and I view the world through that lens. It is a lens of evaluating social and commercial happenings through the refracting lens of brand meaning.

Know this. The most powerful brands in the world have a focused meaning. The more dilute the message the less powerful the brand. The more we try to make a brand for EVERYONE, the less important the brand meaning (and power) become.

Armistice Day had deep historic significance

Armistice Day.Never Again
It was known as the war to end all wars

November 11 was a day of remembrance for the end of the First World War. “On the eleventh hour of the 11th day of the 11th month… all quiet on the Western front.” The deep scars and the immense loss of humanity during the Great War (it was no known as World War 1 until there was a 2nd World War) still makes the horror of this war difficult to comprehend. Wikipedia tells us that the total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was over 38 million: over 17 million deaths and 20 million wounded, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history.

Armistice Day and the Civil War
Gettysburg, July 1863.

The total number of deaths includes about 11 million military personnel and about 7 million civilians. In the battle of the Somme alone more than 1,000,000 men were wounded or killed. Contrast this with the casualty figures at the Battle of Gettysburg where there were 7,058 fatalities and another 33,264 had been wounded.

The horror of modern warfare came alarmingly home during this desperate conflict and Armistice day was celebrated, not just to honor those that died and served but also to proclaim the goal that this war, The Great War, was to be the war to end all wars. It was a day of remembrance of that horror and hoped to be a contemplative focal point to save the world from ever engaging in such madness again.

Armistice Day is a global holidayBut, Americans, in their desire to make everything as vanilla as possible has discarded this meaning and replaced it with a day to honor veterans. Something I support, by the way, but I think it needs to be its own day.

How did a day of remembrance and a poignant promise to try to find peaceful means to solving national conflict become so vanilla? Because we enjoy trite phrases and simplified ideas.

If this makes you upset with me, then you have no interest in our history and as George Santayana once warned ““Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” History should never be dumbed down. It should be remembered and honored. Warts and all.

We view the importance of Armistice Day through our own Bias

Armistice day is like calling Christmas just a holiday
Happy Holidays is to Christmas what Veteran’s Day is to Armistice Day

Does my upset over not calling Armistice Day Veteran’s Day annoy you? Everything depends on what you believe to be important. We all view these things based upon our own personal brands. Does any of the following upset you?

America has replaced Washington and Lincoln’s Birthday remembrance as Presidents Day. Municipalities’ want to remove the greeting of Merry Christmas with Happy Holidays. Greensboro NC (my present home city) renamed Lee Street to Gate City Boulevard.  Universities renamed Easter Break with Fall Break.

Armistice Day and Civil rights
Should we forget and sanitize our history?

We seem to do everything we can to strip our symbols of historical meaning from everything we do. What’s next? Should we rename Martin Luther King’s Birthday as Civil Rights Day? (By the way, Martin Luther King’s Birthday celebration was also celebrated for YEARS in Virginia as Robert E Lee Lee’s Birthday. (Celebrated since 1889. Jackson’s name was added to the holiday in 1904 naming the holiday Lee-Jackson Day. In another instance of watering down a remembrance).

Why don’t we care? Because political correctness prohibits student of history like myself from speaking about these issues because I am thought of as un-American. I guess we are OK with diluting any message unless it is an issue that we individually care about. For me, history should be celebrated and ANY dilution of that message is foolish at best and dangerous at its worst.

Let’s revitalize Armistice Day and reinvigorate Armed Forces Day as Veteran’s Day on the third Saturday of May. It is a day to pay tribute to men and women who serve the United States’ armed forces. Let’s allow the Holiday before Thanksgiving to be a time to contemplate the horror of war.

Here are two other blogs on the same subject.

Armistice Day 

Don’t Celebrate Veterans Day

 

 

Never forget Armistice Day

Today is Armistice Day. What? You thought it was Veteran’s Day?

Well, it is officially, but that’s not how it began – and I think something got lost along the way. As many of you actually probably know, Armistice Day has been celebrated on this day since 1918 as the end of World War I. (At the “eleventh hour of the eleventh month” the treaty was signed.)

Armistice Day Philadelphia_720x500To my mind, Nov. 11 should remain Armistice Day and Veteran’s Day (which, in effect, becomes a celebration and thank you for living veterans) moved to another day. I feel strongly that veterans should be thanked, but it’s too easy to forget the 42 million people who fought in WWI, including more than 4 million Americans.

If you don’t think it is important to commemorate that event, think about this: When the Greatest Generation leaves us, including the more than 16 million Americans who served in World War II, they will be forgotten. Even Pearl Harbor Day is being treated as too blasé for my taste.

I know what some of you are thinking. “Are you saying we should commemorate every war we’ve been in?” That’s not what I’m saying because both world wars were different than anything else. Both re-drew the map of the entire world, involving more than 60 countries (in the case of WWII) and the more than 100 million dead from those two wars. They represent the most significant events in our world’s (and nation’s) history over the last century.

So, as we honor our veterans today, remember that this day began with the close of the bloodiest war in world history at that time. I certainly won’t forget.