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Members of Veterans for Peace rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial May 30, 2017 in Washington, D.C

Members of Veterans for Peace rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial on May 30, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Veterans Group on Annual Mission to Reclaim November 11 as Day for Peace

"We want generations after us to never know the destruction war has wrought on people and the Earth."

Andrea Germanos

As countries across the globe mark Armistice Day Thursday, advocacy group Veterans for Peace is on its annual campaign to bring the focus in the U.S. back to the day's original intent of a celebration of peace.

"We want to be part of a society that acknowledges peace as the ideal."

"As veterans we know that a day that celebrates peace, not war, is the best way to honor the sacrifices of veterans," the group states on its website. "We want generations after us to never know the destruction war has wrought on people and the Earth."

VFP says the errant shift in focus took place post-World War II when Congress rebranded Armistice Day as Veterans Day. With that shift, "honoring the warrior quickly morphed into honoring the military and glorifying war," the group explains, saying that the day "was flipped from a day for peace into a day for displays of militarism."

To counter such displays, the veterans group has been leading since 2008 an annual "Reclaim Armistice Day" effort, with varied actions supported by local chapters nationwide. This year the national group is organizing an 11-hour stretch of programming on its Twitch channel, with panel segments including one focused on the how Veterans Day enables nationalism and another on the emotions that emerge for veterans on the holiday.

Outlined on the VFP website are a number of recommendations for how anyone can support and amplify the reclaim campaign, from simply hanging an Armistice Day sign from a window to hosting a virtual peace vigil to taking action to help end "forever wars" by demanding members of Congress repeal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force and divert funds from the bloated Pentagon budget to "domestic and human needs priorities."

In an op-ed published last week at the Evansville, Indiana Courier & Press, John Michael O'Leary, a nonveteran member of the local Veterans for Peace, made a case for reclaiming Armistice Day and said that "if we think we can measure the cost of war in dollars and lives, we are foolish indeed."

"Such numbers do not begin to limn what our failed forays have extracted from humanity—or the harm done to our planet," he wrote. "Consider that the U.S. military, the world's largest institutional consumer of petroleum, is the world's largest institutional producer of greenhouse gases."

"It's time to get out of the war business," O'Leary wrote.

Looking back to 1954 when the holiday's name changed, he lamented that "it was as if we acquiesced to the notion that our nation is incapable of rejecting war."

But "the best way to honor the service of those in the military," he continued, "is to work for peace."

"We want to be part of a society that acknowledges peace as the ideal," O'Leary said, "the aspirational end to which everyone who believes in what the United States truly stands for should honor. Isn't this what you want, too?"

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