Today is Veterans Day in the United States, Remembrance (or “Poppy”) Day in Commonwealth nations, and le Jour du Souvenir in France. In Vietnam, it’s not celebrated at all, but that wasn’t always the case.
Unlike the United States’ vaguely-defined Veterans’ Day, in the places where the holiday is elsewhere celebrated it remains rooted in the specificity of the Great War, even as those memories to be recalled have virtually receded beyond the limits of the human lifespan. In France and elsewhere in Europe it’s the dead in particular that are the focus of the day’s attention, and one need not visit in November to witness its significance in historical memory. Continue reading