Today when we got in the car to go to school we were discussing veteran’s day. When I asked the kids if they knew what a veteran was Fiona said “it’s a doctor who takes care of animals.” Ummm…no, but sweet.
Fletcher said “it’s those kinds of people that don’t eat any meat.” This one made me laugh out loud. Not sure how he even knew this because he’s only 5.
Cooper promptly corrected them both, “no, not a veterinarian or a vegetarian, a veteran, you know a person who fights in the military.”
We all got a good laugh out of their confusion over those three words.
The truth of the matter is though, that Veteran’s day is no laughing matter.
Veteran’s are among the bravest and most loyal people in our beloved nation. As a citizen of the US, a history teacher and a lover of peace I feel profound gratitude for what they have done and what they are currently doing to keep us all safe.
The history of the actual day is that “armistice day” or the day the Allies and the Central Powers decided to cease fire during WWI, happened on the 11th day, of the 11th month at the 11th hour. As a result, we use this day, November 11th, to celebrate ALL veterans of the many wars American soldiers have risked their lives fighting.
The car conversation continued and we talked about WWI, the “Great War,” “the war to end all wars” and why November 11th was selected as the day to celebrate all veterans. Fortunately our kiddos really like history and have read several books about WWI so they knew a fair amount already.
Perhaps the most interesting question the kids asked was “when WWI happened didn’t the government tell people they had to fight, even if they didn’t want to?”
Ah…the draft. Yes, yes, they did. The Selective Service Act issued in May of 1917 required all men between the ages of 21-30 (this number later moved to 45) to register for military service. Within months over 10 million had registered in response. By the end of WWI nearly 24 million men had registered and of the 4.8 million who served, 2.8 million of them were drafted. Which means…50% of the soldiers who fought in this war volunteered. A statistic I have always found fascinating.
Sadly, WWI was not the war to end all wars and with the rise of people like Hitler, we experienced world war once again. This time, on a whole different level.
Interestingly enough, as a result of the rise of Hitler in Europe, in September of 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the Selective Training and Service Act, which also required men between the ages of 21-45 to register. This was the first time in American history we had a draft during a time of peace. In this war nearly 50 million men were drafted and over 10 million actually served in the most destructive war in the history of the world.
The draft was reinstated a third time in 1948 by President Harry S. Truman in an effort to draft men (many of whom hadn’t been home long from their battles of WWII) to fight in the looming concern over the spread of communism. That fight came in the form of the Korean War.
It wasn’t until the wildly unpopular Vietnam war of the 1960s and 1970’s that the Selective Service system came under great scrutiny and we started to see organized resistance to it. At this point the draft became so unpopular, as did the Vietnam War, that people started to openly avoid the draft. They estimate some 500,000 men “dodged” the draft during this time. As a result some 200,000 men were charged with draft evasion and over 8,000 were convicted. Shortly after this, in 1972, the draft was suspended.
I show parts of a WWI movie in my history class called “The Lost Battalion”. It’s a true story about a battalion of American men that get “lost” in the Argonne Forest and are surrounded by German troops. It’s a story of survival and the American spirit and a story of men from all kinds of different back grounds coming together to triumph over the enemy. It’s really good. At one point in the film the main character is asked why he is there, as a New York lawyer and someone who was opposed to war. His response gets me every time I watch this scene, he said “life would be a lot simpler if we could choose our duties and our obligations, but we can’t and we shouldn’t.” Those words have always stuck with me for some reason. I have to say I agree. We can’t always choose what life throws at us, but we can control how we respond to it. If you are looking for something new to watch this weekend, I highly recommend this movie. A lot of good lessons within.
Overall, I have to say Veteran’s Day led to a pretty colorful discussion in my car this morning. I feel like it’s really important that we teach our children to respect and honor those that fight for our country and our freedom, both those that have gone before us and those that continue to serve.
In my humble opinion respect for people in positions of authority has lessened in my time as an educator and I think kids need to be taught and understand why people like the military deserve our respect.
It was a fun conversation and the history teacher in me loved it! It was also a beautiful reminder that I can do a better job of making sure all my kids know and celebrate veterans, not just today, but all days!
Happy Veteran’s day to all of you that have served our incredible nation. Even with all the uncertainty and craziness that is 2020 in the USA, I still believe we live in the greatest nation on Earth and I am grateful to you for protecting it!
So tonight, the I will pray a rosary for veteran’s across the globe that are doing their noble work and for those that have already served and are back home adjusting to civilian life. Thank you for your service.