Armistice Day celebrated the end of World War I in 1918 and was the predecessor to Veterans Day. The fighting on the Western Front ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. This peace was ratified in the Treaty of Versailles the following year. The day was set aside to honor those who fought in “the war to end all wars,” particularly those who died.
Observance of the armistice was most popular in Europe (France still calls it Armistice Day). Over the years people in many countries took to wearing poppies and placing flowers on soldiers’ graves in honor of the fallen soldiers from WWI. The poppy was made popular by the now famous poem by a Scottish war veteran, which began with “In Flanders Field the poppies grow.” It was not until 1938 when the United States officially recognized Armistice Day. Most pre-boomers learned these facts in elementary school.
Veterans Day replaced the one-war holiday in 1954 – following a victorious WWII, a stalemate in Korean Conflict and while the Cold War was in full swing – so all those who served in the United States military, both in war and peace, could be collectively honored on November 11th each year.
Patriotism suffered a blow as a result of the Vietnam War but has recovered somewhat, although not completely. The first Iraq War was popular; the second, which we actually won was and is not, so time will tell. Many of those against the recent Iraqi effort said Afghanistan was the good war, but changed their tune when more troops were deployed to the region. In any event, we must remember all those who served or are serving in our Armed Forces. We owe them a “thank you” for being willing to protect our country and our way of life.
Maybe our country has been too blessed when it comes to material things. Our poor would be middle-class or better in most other countries around the world. That’s one of the reasons it’s so easy for the leaders of impoverished nations to stir up their citizens to demonstrate, if not fight, against the United States. Yet many individuals in those places long to have something that we take for granite.
Freedom is what you hunger for most when you don’t have it. Over the years people have sacrificed their lives so others could live free. Within the nations’ known for their repressive regimes, there are networks of people operating with their own lives at risk and doing whatever they can to spread the word about democracy in hopes of achieving it some day. Even a suicide boomer’s selfish act is in some ways an effort to be free of the bonds of his unsatisfying life in hopes of receiving a heavenly reward.
This Veterans Day, let us be grateful for our service men and women. And be thankful for the foundation our Founding Father gave us. Then we might realize that America is not perfect, but we have the freedom to make mistakes without fear of harsh repercussion. That’s just one of the oft times overlooked benefits of freedom.