Editorial of November 9, 2023
Let’s Learn This Lesson
This Saturday is Veterans Day, celebrated by everyone, all across the country. The day is acknowledged by jubilant, massive, energetic, musical, and rigorous military parades in just about every city, every town and every village in the U.S., with 21-gun salutes capping the festive day.
Veterans Day has a long and substantial history. It was first celebrated as Armistice Day, the day that the warring nations of America and Europe agreed on an armistice, a temporary cessation of hostilities, that brought World War I—the Great War, the war to end all wars, the bloodiest conflict so far in all of humankind’s bloody history, with more than 8.5 million military casualties—to an end, after four extraordinarily excruciating years. It was a cease-fire; Germany did not surrender, but both sides were exhausted and depleted, and they were ready for the carnage to stop. The Allied forces could not afford a long, tedious, and debilitating march across Europe to Berlin, and the Germans, politically and militarily weakened and starving, were unable to achieve a victory. The outcome seemed clear when the Germans made overtures about an armistice in early October. And so, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918, the armistice was signed. It was followed by the Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919.
In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 of that year to be the first commemoration of Armistice Day, which was to 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.” In 1926, Congress passed a resolution that proclaimed November 11, 1918 as the end of the war and the “resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed … and that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated … to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations…”
Then came World War II, which required the greatest-ever mobilization of the country’s armed forces (16 million) and, after that, the Korean War. In 1954, the 83rd Congress struck down Armistice and inserted in its place Veterans. November 11 became Veterans Day, a day to honor American veterans of all wars. For a while, Veterans Day joined George Washington’s birthday, Memorial Day and Columbus Day as a Monday holiday, providing three-day weekends, but in 1975 President Ford returned its observance to November 11.
While this weekend we celebrate Veterans Day, honoring our veterans of all wars, might we also consider what happened to our commitment to and respect for the perpetration of peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations, which might never again be severed? It would be a true lesson well learned.