My grandfathers called it Armistice Day. It’s the reason I’m here today.
Now known as Veterans Day in the U.S., the armistice of Nov. 11th, 1918, may be the reason you’re here today too.
On my father’s side, my grandfather was on the Western Front with the Highland Light Infantry, 1st Army, 6th Battalion. He had been in the fight for over four years, having been bayoneted at Gallipoli before being shot near the heart and left for dead following a botched prisoner exchange on the Western Front. He was 26. Five years later, he would emigrate to the United States to begin a new life.
On my mother’s side, my grandfather was also on the Western Front, serving as a second lieutenant with the American Expeditionary Force under General Pershing. He had just survived the 47-day Meuse-Argonne offensive, which only ended with the end of hostilities on Nov. 11th, 1918. He was 23.
When both my grandfathers were demobilized, they returned home to find their communities in the grip of the 1918 influenza pandemic, which was in the process of killing as many people as had died on the battlefields of Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East over the previous four years. No vaccination was ever developed for the 1918 flu, which lasted for months into 1920.
My grandfathers survived the pandemic, and were convinced that if the Great War, now known as World War I, had gone on any longer they would not have survived. When I read about World War I and what those who fought it went through, I’m amazed I’m here.
The uncertainty of life and strong possibility of death or terrible injury became another fact of life for soldiers on the Western Front in World War I. That’s why our nation first moved to honor the service and sacrifices of veterans on this date in 1919, one year after the World War I armistice.
In 1954, in the wake of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day to honor the service of all U.S. military veterans. Since then, with the conflicts in Vietnam, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other locales around the world, we continue to honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans and their families – in war and peace – on Veterans Day. We thank them, and we remember.
Cory and I wish you, your families and loved ones, and the veterans close to you a lasting peace on this Veterans Day.