Though we observe this day tomorrow–and some of us are lucky enough to get the day off for doing so–today, November 11, is Veteran’s Day in the United States, and coincides with days of remembrance elsewhere in the world, particularly in Europe, where this day was first enacted after World War I. I’ve written before about this day’s potential recognition of Antinous’ syncretism with Achilleus in years past, and last year I wrote about Hadrian’s favoring of veterans, including a military diploma that survives from his principate.
I don’t know if I have any worthwhile further words to add on this day today, other than to note that the continued support of everyday citizens for veterans in the United States is crucial. Whether one agrees with the wars they’ve fought in or not, or whether one has issues with the military-industrial complex that they have been a part of (and both of which I personally have), the fact is that most of the people who enlist, and who fight and die in the service of their oath to defend the Constitution of the United States are not necessarily people who are war-mongers, who hate enemy combatants and the countries and cultures from which they originate, and they certainly don’t uphold or support the immense profits to be made by politicians and defense contractors that are made on the backs of their own and their comrades’ lives, not to mention those of military personnel and civilians in other countries. They are everyday people who hoped to have a career and a livelihood for a while through military service, and the chance at an education and a future after their service. Unfortunately, many do not get any of that for a great number of possible reasons; but, the fact that each one of them has sacrificed their own safety, individual will, and a period of their life for what ultimately does benefit the civilian population in this country (who, without the all-volunteer military forces would instead be subjected to drafts and essentially conscription), needs to be remembered and honored. It should be a priority for politicians to do this, and it hasn’t always been. Hopefully, things will improve in the years to come in relation to these matters.
Current service members are now allowed to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual in open service, which is still a recent phenomenon; and, current service members can also practice polytheist and pagan religions, which should have always been allowed, but has not been for various reasons. (See this recent news story about a Wiccan Samain service at Joint Base Lackland in San Antonio, TX, for example.)
So, in addition to thinking today about Hadrian, and Antinous and Achilleus, I’ll also be thinking about Veteris (also spelled Hveterus, Hviteres, and other variations), a Romano-British deity who seems to have been honored mostly by military personnel along Hadrian’s Wall, and who likely was a god who was in some way involved with protecting veterans (or, alternatively, the elderly) in that area. Perhaps he was a god of transitions from active military service to civilian life, and the change of status from a soldier to a veteran. This is a transition that not many actual modern veterans get to mark in any official or ritualized fashion, and not unlike many such lack of transitional acknowledgements that modern military personnel face, might be something useful for them to have acknowledged in some manner or other. It’s wondrous what a little bit of ritual can do to actualize these changes of status, whether social or spiritual (or, more often, both), which punctuate our lives.
May all the gods favor the causes of veterans, in the U.S. and worldwide!