Written by By Nadine Yousuf, CNN
On a rainy November day last year, Marine General Robert Neller paid tribute to the memorials and memorials. He sent a ripple through the crowd when he took the podium to place a flower at the foot of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC and, in a moving moment, etched his name into the stone that bears it.
“It was just an incredible experience,” Neller tells CNN Travel in a phone interview. “I couldn’t help but get choked up thinking of all those who fell,” he says of the sea of visitors who lined the monument to pay homage to those who never returned home after serving in the military.
Veterans Day 2018 © EPA/George Frey
It was one of the moments of the day, which took place at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, that Neller says “turned me on” and inspired him to “step up” his commitment to the museum, which officially opened on November 11, 2018.
All three of these observations — somberness, commemoration and personal reflection — are pertinent for what is happening on Veterans Day 2018. Today is the 100th anniversary of the armistice that put an end to the First World War and the 220th anniversary of the Continental Army, which became the U.S. Army. For those who have kept in touch with each other as part of the American Legion, the contributions the vets of both those conflicts made are legion.
The recent questions about the White House proposal to roll back the veteran’s benefits which President Donald Trump repeatedly touted during his presidential campaign made clear the distance between what Trump has actually done, and what he promised, to the men and women who served.
CNN’s Richard Quest spoke to Dana Durham of Veterans for Peace on the first Veterans Day 2018 , following a meeting at the Pentagon. CNN’s Richard Quest spoke to Dana Durham of Veterans for Peace on the first Veterans Day 2018 , following a meeting at the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, the Memorial Day Parade in America’s capital — which this year took place on May 27 — was a moving and moving tribute, bringing together veterans from the Great War, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Beyond honoring and celebrating veterans past and present, however, all this discussion was depressing to New York based journalist Samantha Purnell, who told CNN Travel: “The sad truth is that all these wars are still being fought today — in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen, just to name a few. There’s no time limit on remembering the sacrifices of those who fought. We must continue to remember.”
To be sure, Afghanistan will commemorate its 150th Anniversary of Independence, in 2019. At the moment the country is wrapped up in a bloody civil war.
In that context, what is good news is that some groups like Veterans for Peace (VFP) — an independent organization that strives to remove the “primitiveist, military ethos from all people and institutions within American society” — are keeping in touch with the current generation of veterans, engaging with them on topics like mental health and recovery.
As they faced the new reality of war, many returning veterans struggled to find their footing.
For Purnell, the reason why the veteran population is so successful at building bridges, again, in the twenty-first century is that they came of age during a period of “disruption.”
“We went to Vietnam after other wars, and really we never found our footing,” she says.
“When we looked back on Vietnam, our kids were eight, nine, 10. They looked at Vietnam like it was something like going to college, something that came with an inevitable name, and not something like the Tet Offensive, or the Vietnam War, which was a war that was fresh in their mind.”