When I was a boy Grandmother still called the holiday by the original "Armistice Day". The name was changed during the reign of Joe McCarthy in 1954. Since two of Grandfather's brothers served in the American Expeditionary Force in France, she preferred to celebrate peace. Grandfather was one of Woodrow Wilson's "Four Minute Men". He would be called upon to intervene when the patriotic citizens decided to beat up a few squareheads (German-Americans). He was well suited for this task as a bilingual Lutheran minister. Grandmother used to show me the bronze medal and the parchment signed by President Wilson when the other boys wanted me to play at war with them to show me that men of peace were heroes too and got medals and everything. She was the last of that now extinct breed, a liberal Republican.
Not long after Grandfather passed we went back to Chicago to visit his brother Sigmund who had survived the Great War by virtue of being in the hospital recovering when his unit was wiped out. I was told not to wake him suddenly or make loud noises behind him because he had something called "shell shock". He was a kind and gentle man who sent me a glass cigar tube filled with silver dimes every Christmas.
In those days Veterans Day (The government says there is no apostrophe before the s. They don't even get to own that.) was a bigger holiday than Memorial Day. We still considered a live veteran to be more important than a dead one back then. Memorial Day was also called "Decoration Day" and it was when we solemnly went to the cemetery and put flowers on the graves of Grandfather and my mother. It was a day for all the dead.
Now Veterans day is a minor holiday. Most of us don't even get the day off work anymore. Memorial Day is a big deal now because a dead soldier is a great symbol to invoke to stir up patriotism and support for the current war.
They are a lot less expensive than those pesky living veterans too.
We must honor while we can
The verticle man
Though we value none
But the horizontal one.
Be seeing you