While hundreds gathered Monday at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena for performances of patriotic music and speeches thanking service members for their sacrifices, a meeting of about two dozen people at the Community Building began with 11 rings of a bell in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
For Veterans Day, the Spokane chapter of Veterans For Peace, part of an international organization that advocates for peaceful foreign policy and nuclear disarmament, discussed renaming the holiday Armistice Day, a celebration of peace and the end of World War I.
“We want to reclaim Armistice Day not to deprecate any veteran’s sacrifice or effort to defend our home, but to shine a light on the more constructive, less costly, nonviolent methods of conflict resolution,” said chapter president Rusty Nelson, a Vietnam War veteran.
The holiday is rooted in the celebration of the end of World War I. But in 1954, following World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day to include service members who fought in a growing number of international conflicts.
Veterans For Peace adopted a resolution to celebrate Armistice Day and shift the focus of the holiday to peace at its national convention in 2008.
“Veterans today are bombarded with gratitude, platitude and special offers honored on Memorial Day, Independence Day, Flag Day and every other Thursday,” said Nelson, who said Veterans Day glorifies war, an ineffective way of finding peace that wastes lives and money.
Tom Charles, a Veterans For Peace member and Vietnam veteran, spoke to the people who gathered about what he said are the dangers of nuclear war. He said the United States needs to get rid of its nuclear arsenal to avoid the destruction the weapons could bring to the world.
George Taylor, the vice president of Spokane Veterans For Peace, said the chapter is working with the City Council to build upon last summer’s symbolic nuclear-weapons-free community resolution with a city ordinance. The resolution also established “Hiroshima and Nagasaki Remembrance Day” in Spokane on Aug. 6.
“We want to end war as a default policy of the United States and we want to show the true cost of war so we can get the mindset of the American people back toward a longing and urging for peace,” Nelson said.
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