On Nov. 11, an impassioned group of local veterans will be marching 17.7 miles from Watsonville to Santa Cruz to bring awareness to the issue of veteran suicide.
Bells will toll and bagpipes will play at 11:11 a.m., welcoming the two dozen vets making the long trek to the clock tower in downtown Santa Cruz, and kicking off 2018’s Veterans Day Remembrance and Armistice Day Celebration in Santa Cruz.
“The walkers will highlight the epidemic of suicide that exists in the veteran community,” says Tatanka Bricca, event coordinator and human rights advocate. “Veterans live with the guilt of war, and more of our soldiers die from suicide than actual combat.”
When the large, ornate bell, crafted out of a canister shell from the Vietnam War, stops ringing at 11:12, a remembrance ceremony will be held for all veterans. The bell is symbolic—in the spirit of turning swords to plowshares—and is representative of the theme of this year’s festivities: peace.
“We need to remember there’s a large group of veterans returning from war who are very passionate about peace. We want to celebrate them both,” says Bricca. “We need to celebrate the end of war—where we won’t need war to solve our problems.”
After the ringing of the bells, the celebration will move across the street to the Veterans Memorial Building for the “Afternoon Community Symposium on Creating Peace,” packed with speakers, panel discussions, food, music and more. It will be the culmination of the work Veterans for Peace, Armistice 100 SC and a host of other organizations have done over the last year.
For this year’s celebration, local vets have decided to resurrect and reclaim the original Nov. 11 title of Armistice Day: “A Day of Peace.” Leaders in the veteran community feel it’s possible—and appropriate—to celebrate Veterans Day and the lesser-known Armistice Day at the same time.
One hundred years ago, Nov. 11 was a day of celebration. On the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of 1918, World War I finally ended. Decades before Veterans Day became an official national holiday in 1954, Nov. 11 was a day to celebrate that peace and to rejoice in the end of war. It was called Armistice Day.
Armistice Day’s plea for peace in this complicated and chaotic world exists as a reminder that the last hundred years have been anything but peaceful.
“Ultimately, I hope I am one of the last humans to be called a veteran,” says Paul Damon, a veteran and founder of Holistic Veterans. “If this title does not exist, then we have found peace amongst all human beings.”