Each year November 11 (thank you Kryptos) serves as the official day of recognition and remembrance for our nation’s veterans, but it also provides an annual forum for people to reassess our values and the military’s role with them. From the President laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington to main-street parades in small-town America, citizens become more publicly aware (more so the case during peacetime) of what the military does and of the costs of defending American values during Armistice Day than other times of the year.
Though supporting the troops is not politically dividing, the constant re-examination of the reasoning of why we engage in military force is contentious. Are the values that were used to justify the Vietnam War the same for the Iraqi War? As our esteemed colleague “Cavour” points out, values certainly change over time, as does the public support of war. Evidence of this annual public feedback can be found in most any newspaper spread over this past weekend. The Herald-Leader, for example, featured a plethora of Veterans’ Day contributions including Bob Dole’s encouragement to send troops reminders of home (Dole), the long term psychiatric effects of war on individuals and families, an opinion on troop deployment schedules, and even an article on a Revolutionary War veteran grave maintained on a local farm (Herald-Leader). Cable channels featured military film marathons and radio stations (at least the country stations that I jammed out to this weekend) played selected patriotic songs. This public highlight of such a wide range of military issues raises public awareness and spurs discussions of why America supports an active military role in world affairs.
Of course, these discussions may not make it out of the family living room or the quiet content of having a day off work for another federal holiday, but this annual exposure does what it is designed to do: get people to at least entertain the notion of remembering those who sacrificed for all of us. This summation may seem too idealistic and naïve to be appreciated by all, but then again the values that guide our parameters of threats are ideals themselves.