November 11th always witnesses a surge of Facebook profile pictures updating with old basic military training or deployment photos of those of us who have served and give the nod to our second family. Veteran’s Day is a time to celebrate and recognize those men and women who have worn the uniform, both past, and present.
As a veteran, I, too, update my profile picture most of the time with a picture of me in uniform with my daughter from when we were stationed in North Carolina. The weekend is also full of discounts aplenty for veterans. (Although, I take a hard pass on the obligatory free Bloomin’ Onion from Outback, it’s not my thing.)
While a day dedicated to recognizing the enormous sacrifice that men and women like my husband and I have and continue to give every day is important, it’s time to separate it from what November 11th was originally meant to signify.
It’s time to bring back Armistice Day.
French crowd celebrate armistice day, 1918 pic.twitter.com/vMGqEWyQGQ
— History Defined (@historydefined) October 6, 2022
I want to think that all of you already know what Armistice Day is and where it came from. Still, given the state of our public education system and, sadly, what appears to be our collective short memories, it’s a good idea to do a minor history update.
Armistice Day was born at the end of the first World War.
That’s right; there was a time when world conflict wasn’t commonplace. World War I was never supposed to last as long as it did, which ended up being four years, which seems odd to type those words given that I served during a 20-year war.
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The war began in August of 1914, and most people believed it would end before Christmas. However, the war dragged on and expanded from Europe to Africa and Asia.
The armistice was signed between the Allies of WWI and Germany in France on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – 11:00 on the 11th of November for those of you who aren’t keeping up. Four years after the war started, the cessation of hostilities on the western front was signed.
Terms of the armistice were as follows:
- Immediate withdrawal of German forces from territories they had acquired
- Disarmament and demobilization of the German military
- Release of Allied prisoners
However, it wasn’t the armistice that ended the war; for that, you’d have to fast forward to the following year.
Poet Wilfred Owen was killed in France on this day in 1918. He was 25 years old. His mother received the telegram informing her of his death on Armistice Day. Owen's poems about the horrors of the trenches of WW1 have led to him being considered as the greatest poet of WW1. pic.twitter.com/7JDeMdyPUE
— Time For A Film (@TimeForAFilm) November 4, 2022
The Treaty of Versailles officially ended the war. When the treaty was finalized, there were 32 countries in attendance, including The Big Three:
- British Prime Minister David Lloyd George
- French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau
- President Woodrow Wilson
Germany was not in attendance. The treaty’s goal was to ensure that Germany would never again pose a military threat in Europe.
Of course, we should all know how that turned out. After all, liberal pundits compare the Republican Party to the Nazi Party every chance they get.
In addition to the reduction in land and significant erosion of their Army and Navy, Germany was expected to succumb to ‘War Guilt’ which was a fancy way of stating Germany would be required to pay reparations to the Allies. Many believed the terms were too harsh at the time to include Prime Minister George.
After the treaty was completed, the Prime Minister said:
“We shall have to fight another war again in 25 years’ time.”
Time would eventually prove that he was correct – but back to Armistice Day and what it was supposed to mean.
It’s right in the name. Armistice Day celebrates the end of hostilities. The end of war. The end of, what was up to that time, the most massive, bloody, destructive war the world had likely ever known.
And what is at the end of war? Usually, peace.
Nov. 5, 1922: Rival candidates for Parliament in London's Hackney neighborhood agree to an Armistice Day truce during which they will suspend campaigning. They will also assist sales of poppies to benefit war veterans. Volunteers are seen packing the flowers this week. pic.twitter.com/Im7pQZxKMB
— Jon Blackwell (This Day in 1922) (@100YearsAgoNews) November 5, 2022
On the first celebration of Armistice Day in 1919, President Wilson said:
“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who did in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”
The idea behind marking and celebrating Armistice Day was to celebrate peace as a unifying and universal principle that brings together men and women of all backgrounds from all corners of the world.
When President Wilson said America should take the opportunity to show her sympathy with peace and justice, there wasn’t the military-industrial complex that we have today.
War was still undertaken with great hesitation, thought, and planning. The idea of sending America’s men and women to their possible death in a land across the seas was not lightly taken and meant an entire country’s effort for those that weren’t sent to the front lines.
My how times have changed.
World War I – 1916.
French troops attend a midnight Mass inside Fort Douomont near Verdun pic.twitter.com/6LIHciCEaR
— TT (@SmallTownSede) November 5, 2022
A New Day
In 1954 Armistice Day became what we know as Veteran’s Day. A sad testament to the fact that the spirit of Armistice Day had long been lost to Americans.
A day meant to celebrate the end of war and celebrate the universal dream of peace transformed into a day to celebrate the men and women who master the profession of war.
But, again, don’t get me wrong, a day should be dedicated to those of us who wore and still wear the uniform.
Those who benefit from our service and protection from the darkness of war should have to take a knee once a year and contemplate how lucky they are to live in a country where men and women willingly dedicate moments of their lives so that they don’t have to. But we should all take a knee to remember the young men who traveled all the way to Europe to fight a war that engulfed the world for the first time.
Think about it for a second; this scale of war in modern times was unheard of and unimaginable. The men who hadn’t died when the armistice was signed at that point doubtful believed they would ever see home again.
During World War I, Charles Barger was not only presented with the Medal of Honor while in France, he also received 10 Purple Hearts. pic.twitter.com/wGapkc5Kow
— #NeverForget our troops. 🇺🇸 (@willo1246) October 29, 2022
Where Did The War Poets Go?
The peace that was brokered was meant to be contemplated and celebrated so that we wouldn’t forget that the reason for war should always be the attainment of peace. We have lost that.
In England, they call November 11th Remembrance Day, now akin to our Memorial Day. The critical difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day is you would celebrate me on Veterans Day but not on Memorial Day – I am lucky enough to be still breathing and feeling the sun on my face.
The iconic symbol of Remembrance Day is the red poppy flower that covered the battlefields of World War I. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrea wrote the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ when he saw his friend lose his life to a German artillery shell:
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below
My grandfather, who fought in World War II, gave me an appreciation for poetry. So while I lack the poetic tongue, I still enjoy it.
Lt. Col McCrea isn’t just speaking of the death of his friend in battle; he’s musing on how the rest of the world, from the poppies on the ground to the birds in the sky, live in a kind of peace regardless of the war noise of man.
IN FLANDERS FIELDS – John McCrae 😔🙏 pic.twitter.com/evS53y7B1D
— Stella B. Jansen (@Stella_Jansen) November 4, 2022
We need more war poets to remind us why we must appreciate and celebrate peace.
To all my veteran brothers and sisters, thank you for your service. To those boys from yesteryear whose eyes may have had their last gaze upon the poppy fields, I will appreciate the peace I have.
Happy Armistice Day.
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