On Veterans Day, November 11, the Concord Academy community honored veterans, celebrating the holiday by meeting in the PAC and listening to a speech about the history and meaning of the day. After the meeting, students were enjoined to write care letters that were later sent to the veterans.
The speech presented in front of the students was from a website called The News & Observer, written by the website’s editorial board. It talked about the history of Veterans Day, the meaning of its celebration, and the website’s own opinion on the subject.
Veterans Day was established to honor American veterans who served in the military, and it was established for the end of World War I, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. One year later, on Armistice Day, President Woodrow Wilson issued the famous speech about veterans, war, and peace.
He said, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.” Since his speech, November 11 has been dedicated to honoring and appreciating the veterans who experienced traumatic events and difficulties adjusting to normal life after the wars.
President Wilson also stated, “Theirs [World War I veterans’] was indeed the Greatest Generation, marked by the service of so many who literally left their homes, left the farm fields and the factories, to go to strange lands and save their country and the freedom of those within it for the generations to come.” Wilson discussed the bravery and courage American soldiers must have while helping civilians in other countries escape from the suffering and pain inflicted by unjust leaders.
However, this is not the reason that people should honor them. If society honors the veterans only because of the fact that their actions coincided with the public moral standard, then, by this logic, soldiers who fought in Vietnam War and Korean War do not “deserve” the honoring. They followed the order from their commander and, therefore, might not follow the public moral code.
This becomes very problematic because the soldiers who served during these controversial wars had no control over their decisions; they had to follow the orders that were passed down to them, regardless of their personal opinions on the matter, for example, someone has to follow the order even though it might be killing an entire village. Instead of honoring and criticizing the soldiers according to whether their actions align with the American civilians’ morale, society should honor each veteran who served valiantly for his or her country and loved ones.
Another issue with Wilson’s speech is that it glorifies the opinion that American soldiers were “freeing” and “saving” the citizens of the United States from danger by engaging the wars. This statement is questionable because the motives of the United States joining a war were never pure humanitarian; there were always some monetary or political benefits behind the United States’ military conquests.
The moral nature of war should be separate from the honoring of soldiers who served during the war. Veterans should not be criticized based on what they did during the war because of their lack of control over their actions. Therefore, every soldier heroically served the United States and had no control over where he or she was stationed.