It was a day of peace.
November 11, 1918 was the day the guns were silenced. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month marked an armistice between the Allied powers and Germany, marking the de facto end to World War I.
A year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died 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…”.
Twenty Years later, on November 11, 1938, Congress added that the day should be, “…dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.”
But the war to end all wars, the war Congress proclaimed to be, “…the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals”, never lived up to its billing. Many, many more men and women would lose their lives in wars to come.
In 1954, the day was renamed Veterans Day, to honor all of those who have served their country in uniform. While celebration of enduring world peace was a noble goal, it was more appropriate and proper that we honor those who have striven for peace with their service and blood.
Today it is a day of honor, sadness, and dignity. There will be parades. There will be flags. And there will be memories. A ton of memories.
Those who lost their lives will be honored, but so will those who lived. They all raised their hands and swore to protect and defend the Constitution and the country whose course it directs. To them, that country has a face. It is the face of a mother who wakes up each morning with a prayer to keep her son or daughter safe. It is the face of a child who misses her parent, whose last words to her were, “I’ll be home soon.” It is the face of a friend, brother, wife. It is a small town who waits for its children to return home to a hero’s salute.
It is America.
Veterans are ordinary people who willingly confronted extraordinary events, because someone had to. They are still out there, on the frontier. To them, and to those who have served throughout the history of this nation, there is only one appropriate and proper thing we can say.
We can say thanks.