On this day, November 11, 1864, Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman burnt Atlanta, Georgia to the ground and began his mark to the sea to take Savannah, Georgia. Sherman is quoted as saying “War is hell.” And he proved it. The Sherman Tank is named after him.
On November 11, 1918, on the eleventh month, on the eleventh day, at the eleventh hour, German signed the armistice in a railway car in the forest of Compiegne, ending the War to End all Wars, or so they thought. World War I started years earlier when a Serbian rebel assassinated Arch Duke Ferdinand. This sparked alliances to be broken, treaties to be ignored, and pent up angst and anger created by the redrawing of Europe after the Second Treaty of Paris.
Just one year prior to the armistice of November 11, 1918 , the Russian peoples, tired of war, tired of poverty, tired of a lot of things, rose up in revolution removing the Tsar of Russian and began communist rule as the Soviet Union. This began the seeds of the Red Scare to happen decades later.
After the signing of the armistice of November 11, 1918, Germany really did get the raw deal. The German economy tanked, people were starving and using the now useless paper money for insulation. Soon people rose to power saying the armistice of 1918 wasn’t fair. And soon war began again. An evil war. A horrid war. A war that once again redrew the lines of Europe.
And then the Cold War began, this fueled entering the war with Korea and then again in Vietnam. People form Vietnam didn’t return right. My dad is one of them. People protested. People spat in the faces of the soldiers coming home. What was the war about? The jury’s still out to this day. The same is true with the Korean war between North and South Korea (to which we never did wrap up but still have guards at the border between North and South).
In the 80’s through the 90’s there was relative peace. The Gulf War showed the power and might of the US military. Then 9/11 happened. It all changed. We had a decade of war. A decade of veterans coming home. Wounded warrior forever changed by IEDs, insurgents, close quarter urban warfare, and a different way of fighting.
War. Is. Hell.
I’m a grandchild of the Vietnam War. Growing up, I met many Vietnam Vets who just weren’t right. They left the war but the war never left them. My dad still works with homeless veterans in an annual event called Stand Down. There, they help homeless vets deal with legal issues, give them clean clothes, help with job counseling, help with psychotherapy (counseling) and PTSD, and working through other issues. Stand Down refers to when the enemy has stopped attacking, and the soldiers are allowed to stand down and try to relax a little bit.
Today, November 11, is called Veterans’ Day. It was for years called Armistice Day, the day in which we celebrated the ending of the War to End all Wars. Instead, it began a new era of warfare that constantly changes and adapts. And the casualties are those who never came home, and those who came home, but never really returned.
Do more than thank a veteran today. Be compassionate and loving. Be understanding when they have a hard time with someone standing behind their back, or not being able to see all the exits in a room. Be sensitive to how they move, think, react to noise, sound, cars driving by. Be present in times of worry, in the nightmares, in the hurts and pains.
The troops so many support today, are the ones living with PTSD tomorrow. They are the one with sleepless nights filled with nightmares they cant control, they are the ones either self medicating, ignoring, or trying to move on in life, they are the homeless who cannot fully once again reenter into life in the States, they are the ones who are the wounded warriors both physically and emotionally tomorrow.
“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you wll find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29
Do more than thank a vet today. Be ready to be present with them when they need assistance to find the rest they need. Walk with them through the process as they realize they are allowed to finally stand down. Be present in their journey as they seek to find rest for their souls.