Yesterday was November 11, Armistice Day, Remembrance Day and Veterans Day, depending on your nation. I was in England on November 11 last year, and went to a crowded ceremony at the cenotaph in Maidstone (a small one on the 11th, and a larger one on the following Sunday). This year in Hong Kong, there is a cenotaph in Central, the heart of the city, and Pete tells me there were nearly 2000 people at the ceremonies, litanies of prayers and hymns.
I think it is one of the most fitting ways to remember. Veterans in the town attend and parade, and those currently involved in military exercises join in. Prayers for veterans, traditional hymns, and moments of silence mark the day with hono(u)r.
In the states we usually get a day off work, and use it to barbecue or read or watch a Star Trek marathon on Spike TV. Sometimes high schools and middle schools try to do some education, talk about veterans issues, do some volunteer work. It is by no means consistent, and many people don’t really know why we get the day off.
This is at least one thing that England does better than the US. Poppy appeal is ubiquitous in the UK; if you don’t wear a poppy made by a veteran, you stand out. There is a ceremony of remembrance, widely attended. In the states, I was always unaware of anything widely available to the public in the same way. American culture is generally lax in its observation and honor of veterans, while Brits the world over have a concrete way of supporting veterans. The themes of Memorial Day and Veterans Day tend to be more overlooked.
I was unable to go to the ceremony yesterday (in true American fashion), as I had work in the morning and I’ll have work today as well. But I’d still like to have an opinion, and spend a moment to memorialize anyway. If you see or meet a veteran, let them know they are supported. Maybe we’ll even find a worthwhile charity.
The Guardian had this lovely memorial video of actors reading WW1 poetry, and I will leave you with that: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/video/2012/nov/11/sean-bean-first-world-war-poetry-video