My three-year-old grandson asked me to read the funny pages to him this morning, as he often does. His favorites include “Peanuts,” and today that meant explaining to him,
somehow, who Willie and Joe were—and by extension, what a veteran is and what a
I told Bruno that my father, whom he knows only from photographs, was a veteran of the same war as Willie and Joe, and so we talked about grandparents for a while, avoiding any complex discussion of military service, of war, or of combat. However, we adults should not avoid the reminder that this day brings each year.
We owe a deep debt to America’s veterans: those remaining from my father’s generation; those of my generation who fought in a war that brought our country no honor but caused its veterans great sacrifice and pain; and those of my daughter’s generation and younger who have served and serve today in the Middle East. Our debt is complex. It is equal parts gratitude for their sacrifice; responsibility for ensuring that the physical, psychological and financial effects of their service are remedied, without regard to the cost; and recognition that we are all responsible to some extent for the social and political failures that cause nations to resort to war.
The founders of the original Armistice Day—the international day of remembrance upon
which Veterans Day is based—hoped that the veterans of the first World War would be
the last to be called to such service, and that the “War to End All Wars” would usher in
an era of permanent world peace. I hope Bruno lives to see that dream fulfilled, and our
debt to America’s veterans repaid.