Veterans Day 2018

Stephen DeAngelis

November 12, 2018

This year’s Veterans Day celebration marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. Katie Mettler (@kemettler) reports, “[in 1918,] at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, fighting between the Allied Forces and Germany stopped, putting an end to the bloodshed of World War I per the terms of an armistice agreement signed in France that same day. … On the one-year anniversary of the armistice agreement, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation commemorating Nov. 11 as Armistice Day. … The proclamation read: ‘… 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 …'”[1] History.com adds, “Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans — living or dead — but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime. … In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.”[2] Whenever Veterans’ Day falls on a Sunday, the following Monday is designated as the Federal holiday.

Each year a commemorative poster honoring veterans is selected by the Veterans Day National Committee and published by the Veterans’ Administration. “This year’s poster depicts the remembrance poppy and a barbed wire fence. The poppy has been used since 1921 to commemorate military personnel who have died in war and was inspired by the World War I poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. The barbed wire represents the thousands of miles wire that was spread by both sides in WWI.”[3] The hundredth anniversary of the end of the War to End All Wars is a fitting time to reflect on those tragic times. John Graham Royde-Smith and Dennis E. Showalter write, “World War I was one of the great watersheds of 20th-century geopolitical history. It led to the fall of four great imperial dynasties (in Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey), resulted in the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, and, in its destabilization of European society, laid the groundwork for World War II.”[4] They continue:

“The outbreak of war in August 1914 was generally greeted with confidence and jubilation by the peoples of Europe, among whom it inspired a wave of patriotic feeling and celebration. Few people imagined how long or how disastrous a war between the great nations of Europe could be, and most believed that their country’s side would be victorious within a matter of months. The war was welcomed either patriotically, as a defensive one imposed by national necessity, or idealistically, as one for upholding right against might, the sanctity of treaties, and international morality. … The casualties suffered by the participants in World War I dwarfed those of previous wars: some 8,500,000 soldiers died as a result of wounds and/or disease. The greatest number of casualties and wounds were inflicted by artillery, followed by small arms, and then by poison gas. The bayonet, which was relied on by the prewar French Army as the decisive weapon, actually produced few casualties. War was increasingly mechanized from 1914 and produced casualties even when nothing important was happening. On even a quiet day on the Western Front, many hundreds of Allied and German soldiers died. The heaviest loss of life for a single day occurred on July 1, 1916, during the Battle of the Somme, when the British Army suffered 57,470 casualties.”

Mettler concludes, “Much has changed in the 98 years since Armistice Day was first observed. Now we honor not just servicemen, but servicewomen. Our wars are not fought with cannons, but with drones. The war to end all wars didn’t end war at all. Soldiers have fought and died all over the globe. But through the past century, despite its different names and dates, the purpose of Veterans Day has remained the same — to say thanks.” Those of us at Enterra Solutions® join with the rest of America to thank Veterans for their service and sacrifice in the defense of freedom.

Footnotes
[1] Katie Mettler, “How Veterans Day went from celebrating world peace to thanking armed forces,” The Washington Post, 11 November 2017
[2] Editors, “Veterans Day Facts,” History.com, 12 September 2018.
[3] Staff, “Veterans Day Posters 2010-2018,” Military Benefits, 2018.
[4] John Graham Royde-Smith and Dennis E. Showalter, “World War I,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15 October 2018.