Veterans’ Day is plagued with sadness and tragedy. It is a day to remember war and its costs, especially the most brutal 20th Century conflicts.
It was originally called “Armistice Day,” as it was the day that ended the armed hostilies of World War I. The Western parties signed an armistice, a treaty, a peace agreement, a truce. World War I was considered the war to end all wars. It was called “The Great War” by some. Violence and fighting were terrible and gruesome.
One thinks of the veterans, of their noble (and often voluntary) sacrifice for country and freedom. They were motivated by duty and honor. Many showed great courage in unimaginable situations. And yet the horror, brutality, and confusion of war complicates: for what quarrel did a Frenchman have with a German? Or a Brit with an Austrian?
As evidenced by the Christmas truce, by and large, there was no individual hostility. Certainly not enough private or individual hostility to start a war of this scale and magnitude. This conflict, and many of the 20th Century conflicts, were about nation-states sending its citizens to war against each other. These brutal conflicts are a condemnation of the modern nation-state as an instrument of peace.
Theologically, these conflicts also serve as a very graphic reminder of the reality of spiritual darkness, and of the adversary, the enemy of peace, who seeks the destruction and misery of all. The devil laughed and his angels rejoiced to see the wickedness and destruction among the Nephites right before the coming of Christ. Surely he rejoiced to see such hostility and destruction in the 20th Century. Surely he rejoices today when such destruction occurs.
Veterans’ Day is a reminder of these hard truths. It is not a day to glory in war, nor justify its presence, but a day to mourn those whose lives were cut short from its brutal path and honor their memory and sacrifice. Most importantly, it is a day to remember that through Christ, His Atonement, and the Resurrection, all foes are vanquished. As Paul taught in 1st Corinthians, “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”