100th Anniversary of the First Armistice Day
Sunday is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. It was on Nov. 11, 1918, that fighting in World War I came to an end following the signing of an armistice between the Allies and Germany. Only a very few can now personally remember a day that has been well remembered for so long.
In 1918—100 years ago—it was “the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” that marked the end of World War I. President Woodrow Wilson began the practice of observing the anniversary of that day the very next year, and what was originally called “Armistice Day,” and now is called “Veterans Day,” was born.
Wilson’s remarks on that day were both a statement about the importance of remembering what our veterans had accomplished and a marker for the role he saw for the United States in the world: “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.”
The late senator John McCain, who passed away earlier this year, was able to distill those grand ideas into something more personal and specific. Writing of the heroism and patriotism he observed while a prisoner of war in Viet Nam, he reminded his readers of the values our veterans embody: “Duty, honor, country. We must never forget those thousands of Americans who, with their courage, with their sacrifice and with their lives, made those words live for all of us.”
Senator McCain reminds us that our freedom has come at great cost. Well over a million Americans have died in armed conflicts in defense of our country. More than a million more were wounded, and lived (or live) their lives with the impact of their wounds. Beginning with the Revolutionary War, more than 50 million have served this country in the uniforms of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy, the five branches of the US Armed Forces. Numbers like these are difficult to fully comprehend. They are both humbling and sobering.
To all our veterans—thank you. Thank you for everything you’ve done for our country. You’re among the best our nation has to offer. God bless you and your families as we honor you on Veterans Day.