We’ve called it Veterans Day for now over 50 years but I know today as Armistice Day. I know it from the French soldier’s engraving on the 105mm howitzer shell that my Great Aunt Harriet brought back from rhe war; The Great War.
Aunt Harriet is the only veteran of combat I have known well. She and her nursing classmates at Louisville’s Norton’s Infirmary, graduated early in 1918 and shipped to France. She served as a surgical nurse in a field hospital which would now be called a MASH unit. She returned to march in the victory parade down New York’s Fifth Avenue.
As a pre-teen during World War II I learned from her the confusing concept that the mutilated German solidiers were no different in their needs and rights to compassionate care than the French, Brit and even U.S. soldiers. It was from her that I first learned the equally confusing concepts of pacifism and the immorality of glorification of war.
Would that all of our combat veterans return transformed to renounce violence and to serve the oppressed. Soon there would be no more "Universal Soldiers." *
And PTSD might be laid to rest once and for all.
I will wear poppies today and reflect.
"He’s five foot-two, and he’s six feet-four,
He fights with missiles and with spears.
He’s all of thirty-one, and he’s only seventeen,
Been a soldier for a thousand years.
He’a a Catholic, a Hindu, an Atheist, a Jain,
A Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew.
And he knows he shouldn’t kill,
And he knows he always will,
Kill you for me my friend and me for you."
Complete lyrics here: