Worship the Veterans Day

Veterans Days is misnamed.

It was originally termed Armistice Day—a day to commemorate the signing of the armistice on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month that ended fighting on the Western Front in World War I, “the war to end all wars.” After World War II, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day as a tribute to all U.S. soldiers who fought for the government in some unnecessary foreign conflict.

But that is not why it is misnamed.

Although we have in this country many days that have been set aside to honor the military— Army Day, Marine Corps Day, Navy Day, Air Force Day, Coast Guard Day, Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day, and Armed Forces Day—there are also three official military appreciation days—Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Veterans Day—that used to be known as holidays. There is also a National Military Appreciation Month (May) and a Military Family Month (November), although sometimes it seems like every month is National Military Appreciation Month or Military Family Month. And then there are special military appreciation days like the annual Salute to the Military that was held in Biloxi, Mississippi, last month and the Academy of Country Music’s “An All-Star Salute to the Troops” concert held in Las Vegas earlier this year.[amazon asin=0982369786&template=*lrc ad (right)]

Of the government’s official military appreciation days, Veterans Day is the worst.

Veterans Day has now become a day to honor, not just those who have served in the military during wartime, but also those who have served during peacetime or are serving now. Veterans Day has become a day to recognize all things military. Veterans Day is now wholly given over to praising soldiers, flattering veterans, repeating ridiculous slogans and poems about the military, and heaping glory, laud, and honor ad nauseam on the troops. Public schools have Veterans Day programs. Many cities have Veterans Day parades. Many restaurants offer veterans or active-duty military personnel special discounts or free meals on Veterans Day. And although Americans recite their “thank you for your service” mantra thousands of times each and every day, this reaches a climax on Veterans Day.

Churches have gotten into the act as well. Although it is bad enough to have the misfortune of attending a “patriotic service” on the Sunday before Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, the Sunday before Veterans Day in many evangelical churches is wholly given over to military blasphemy and idolatry. Veterans are encouraged to wear their uniforms to church. Veterans are recognized during the Sunday morning service—sometimes with thunderous applause. The names of all the church’s veterans are printed in the church bulletin. The church sign has the Scripture on it replaced with something about the military. More prayers than usual are offered for “the troops.” If you’re lucky (or cursed, depending on how you look at it), a military color guard marching down the main aisle will open the service, a video tribute to “the troops” will be shown, the pianist will play the song of each branch of the military during the offering, and a military chaplain will be the guest speaker.[amazon asin=098236976X&template=*lrc ad (right)]

A local Christian school in my town is advertising their special Veterans Day program. The flyer says to “invite a veteran or military person to attend” as we would “love to honor them at our program.” And “if you have a relative currently serving on active duty, please send the name and address” so we can “send them a letter of thanks.” A “special tribute to all veterans and military will be given” at the program. It is “our privilege to honor” veterans and those currently serving because “their courage, love of country and devotion keeps America both strong and proud.”

In view of all the love, devotion, thankfulness, adoration, affection, fondness, esteem, adulation, appreciation, recognition, admiration, glory, laud, and honor directed toward veterans on Veterans Day, it is clear that the holiday is misnamed: It should really be called Worship the Veterans Day.

I have no doubt that some people would cry and others would cheer if someone said this in a speech this Veterans Day:

We honor you, O veterans. You are our heroes. We idolize you. Thank you for your service. You are role models for our children. Without you we would all be speaking German, Japanese, Korean, or Vietnamese. And thank you for winning the Cold War so we didn’t have to learn Russian. We wish your pensions were higher. We hope that the VA hospitals will take better care of you. We think you deserve the finest artificial limbs that money can buy. We think you have earned the right to the best mental health and substance abuse treatments available. Thank you for fighting for our freedoms. Thank you for defending the United [amazon asin=0982369751&template=*lrc ad (right)]States by fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. We wish all businesses would give you discounts and special employment opportunities. We wish all restaurants would give you free meals. Thank you for policing the world so that we can sleep safely at night. We encourage you to become police officers so you can utilize the skills you have learned in the military as you protect and serve us. Thank you for fighting “over there” so we don’t have to fight “over here.”

Although many veterans willingly accept such worship on Veterans Day, I suspect that many more do not. I do know that I have received hundreds of e-mails from veterans—including those who fought in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan—who are saddened, embarrassed, regretful, or ashamed of their “service” and cringe when they are thanked for it when people find out that they are veterans. What we need are more veterans to say enough is enough, stop the idolatry.

My “vitriol” (as some will describe this article) is not directed toward veterans. Although I don’t appreciate them bombing, invading, and occupying other countries, killing and maiming the latest “enemy” of the U.S. government, making widows and orphans, and fighting foreign wars in defense of my freedoms, I don’t see a lot of veterans demanding that they be thanked, praised, appreciated more, or worshipped.

My “hate speech“ (as others will describe this article) is directed toward those chickenhawks, armchair warriors, reich-wing nationalists, red-state fascists, religious rightists, bloodthirsty conservatives, theocons, warvangelicals, God and country bumpkins, Values Voters, American exceptionalists, and pro-lifers for mass murder who worship veterans.