Veterans Day originally commemorated the 1918 armistice that effectively ended World War I, the mechanized international war blundered into by dozens of nations that subjected soldiers to trench warfare, gas attacks, aerial bombing. It was the early-model modern war that featured the kinds of horrors that have marked war ever since. The fighting killed or maimed 37 million people.
The official holiday was declared in 1926 by a traumatized and exhausted Congress. The purpose was to celebrate and further the cause of world peace.
Looking back from the War on Terror era, that history of Veterans Day seems all but forgotten — but not by everyone.
War correspondent Ann Jones has written an unflinching book-length essay on the impact of the wars of the post-9/11 era on American soldiers, their families and the residents of the towns and cities where they live. The book is about victims of the wars waltzed into and extended by U.S. leaders and largely cheered by the press. We say thank you to our soldiers in press releases and by hanging flags from buildings. Meantime, they walk wounded threw their civilian lives. Some of the most wrenching reporting in Jones’s book, she says, leans on local papers that publish stories born from police blotters.
Her book, They Were Soldiers, has just been released by Dispatch Books, a project launched by Tom Engelhardt and friends. Engelhardt runs the journalism website TomDispatch. Below we’re posting the introduction from the book. Find out more about Ann Jones, Tom Engelhardt and TomDispatch here. Buy They Were Soldiers here.
— John Tomasic