Remembering Wars of the Past, and the Present


    This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

    November eleventh, nineteen eighteen, was the day Germany signed a cease-fire agreement with the Allies in World War One. Some countries observe November eleventh as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day.

    Fireworks at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall
    Fireworks at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall
    This year, Chancellor Angela Merkel became the first German leader to attend the ceremony in Paris. Her visit was another sign of growing European unity, and growing ties between France and Germany.

    Two days earlier, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was in Germany as thousands of people remembered a different war -- the Cold War. They celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in a peaceful revolution.

    For almost thirty years the huge wall divided Germany. It also represented the separation of western Europe from the communist east.

    In the United States, November eleventh is Veterans Day. The holiday honors all those who have served in the armed forces. It has special meaning for service members like Lieutenant Colonel Dan Snowden, now serving in Afghanistan.

    Lieutenant Colonel Dan Snowden
    Lieutenant Colonel Dan Snowden
    DAN SNOWDEN: "Veterans Day is very important, it goes back to generations. My father was a veteran of the Korean War, and it really represents the future and the past and present."

    On Veterans Day, the president traditionally lays a wreath of flowers next to the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington. But President Obama surprised mourners by also visiting the graves of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Later, he met again with his advisers about a decision on the future of the Afghan war. His war commander has asked for an additional forty thousand troops. But officials say the American ambassador in Kabul has expressed concerns because of Afghan government corruption. The ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, is a former commander of the war. President Obama said Friday in Tokyo that "the decision will be made soon."

    Veterans Day came a day after the president spoke at a memorial service at the Army base at Fort Hood, Texas. The service was for the thirteen people killed in a shooting there last week. Military officials have brought murder charges against Major Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist. He was one of the Army's mental health professionals working with soldiers to deal with the effects of war.

    Soldiers honor victims of the shooting at Fort Hood, Texas
    Soldiers honor victims of the shooting at Fort Hood, Texas
    Officials say he shot at unarmed soldiers and civilians as troops were preparing for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Major Hasan was shot and seriously wounded by police.

    Investigators say they are looking at every possible reason for the shooting. Officials say they will also investigate whether warning signs about Major Hasan's behavior were ignored.

    Fort Hood is a huge base that has lost more than five hundred soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many soldiers say the best way to honor those killed in the shooting is to continue doing their duty. Sergeant Perry Osburn put it this way:

    PERRY OSBURN: "We cannot let this make us afraid, you know what I'm saying? You just got to keep moving on."

    And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. Transcripts, podcasts and archives of our programs can be found at And you can follow us on Twitter at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember.