The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month was the day that the Armistice between WWI Allies and Germany went into effect in 1918.
World War I or the War To End All Wars was fought from July 28, 1914 to November 11, 1918 mobilizing 70 million military personnel. Sixteen million died in this war (9 million combatants and 7 million civilians).
As WW II and subsequent wars bear out, including the Endless Wars of today, wars are still with us, fueled by a global arms industry and competing international interests seeking resources and hegemony.
As a long time peace activist, I have marched many times for peace, to object to wars and military actions that the U.S. wages. I could even say most of my adult life has been affected by wars – the millions killed and wounded in the War on Vietnam, the hundreds of thousands killed in Central America during the eighties, and the U.S. Global War on Terror waged without mercy or heed following the attacks of September 11, 2001 that has killed and wounded millions across the Middle East, widened to engulf more countries and has caused millions of people to flee their homes, adding to the global refugee crisis of 65 million.
I live in the Boston area where we are fortunate to have a number of Vietnam War veterans (and still a couple of Korean War vets) who are part of a very strong chapter of Veterans For Peace: the Smedley Butler Brigade.
The Brigade took its name from Smedley D. Butler, one of the most highly decorated Marines in history, who later became an outspoken critic of U.S. wars. “War is a racket. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”
The Smedleys (as they are affectionately known amongst the peaceniks) have tried many times to march in the official Veteran’s Day Parade (Armistice Day was changed to Veteran’s Day in 1954) but they are denied a place. Veterans For Peace are not wanted. Member Pat Scanlon has a song about it. Click the hyperlink, it’s a great video on Youtube!
Therefore, they march after the official parade (after the street sweepers) every November 11th and invite friends and allies to join them.
I go as often as I can and my love for these men and women cannot be overstated. I have seen members of the brigade angrily attacked by an onlooker surround the angry man and speak with him in gentle, knowing terms. And I have seen the angry man weep and be embraced by brothers who knew his pain in a way no one else could.
Many years, the Smedleys leaflet young recruits who have been bused into Boston and then out again to march in the parade. The recruits take the flyers and engage in (hopefully) useful conversations with the veterans.
There is always a rally at the end, at an outdoor plaza by Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall, with speeches, poetry and song.
I look forward to accompanying Veterans For Peace Smedley Butler Brigade this year – we can even bring our own signs because they say the current moment is so dangerous and crazy. We meet at the Parade Ground between Boston Common and The Public Garden at noon on Saturday November 11th.
Thea Paneth serves on the coordinating committee of United for Peace and Justice.