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Dispute Over Role and Title of Veterans Day Continues

Gabrielle Caracciolo

Sunday marked 100 years since the ending of the “war to end all wars.” Around the world people celebrated the anniversary and commemorated the sacrifices many made.  

Here in Syracuse, some veterans called for a slight change to the way Veteran's Day is now observed, emphasizing peace instead of acknowledging war.  

Credit Gabrielle Caracciolo/WAER News
An honor guard and wreath, part of Onondaga County's observance at the War Memorial

People gathered at the The Onondaga County War Memorial for a  traditional Veterans Day Observance Ceremony. County Executive Ryan McMahon recognized the sacrifice of veterans and their families.

“Our veterans are what is best about us as a society, as a community. What’s great about the timing of this day every November is, our country goes into rigorous debates with politics. But this date is kind of the reset button. We come together today in what brings us all together and focus on what’s important, what’s greater than all of us.”

McMahon officially proclaimed the day Veterans Day in Onondaga County. But just a few blocks away at the World War One Memorial in Billings Park some spoke against the concept of Veterans Day. The Veterans for Peace and the Beyond War and Militarism Committee hosted a vigil to reclaim the day as Armistice Day.

“It being the 100th anniversary, we felt that it was appropriate to gather together and reclaim Armistice Day as a day for peace.”

Armistice Day became a national holiday in 1938, set on November 11th, the day in 1918 when the agreement to end hostitlities on land, sea and air was signed.  Congress officially changed the name to Veterans Day in 1954 to include service members from World War II and other conflicts, follwoing pressure from veterans' groups.  It became an official Monday day-off in 1968. 

Event organizer Ron VanNorstrand says he has seen the issues Veterans face first hand through his time in the military and his prior work as a civil rights attorney. VanNorstrand represented Veterans who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD and found themselves struggling with medical aid and housing. He says he hopes events like this will raise awareness.

Credit Gabrielle Caracciolo/WAER News
This monument stands at the northern end of Billings Park in Syracuse, as a monument to those who served and died in WW I.

“To raise the issue of the militarization of our culture. If we could just take a fraction of the amount of money that is spent on the military, we could address all the various issues that we have.”

Following the ceremonies, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, churches in the city rang their bells as those attending both the Veterans Day and Armistice Day ceremonies paused to listen and remember.

A bronze plaque on the monument reads, “This memorial is presented to the City of Syracuse… as a tribute to the heroes… who made the supreme sacrifice in the great war and grateful recognition of the esteem in which they held the citizens of this city…”