ARMISTICE SIGNED, END OF THE WAR!
So read the headlines on the front page of The New York Times on November 11, 1918. The agreement between the Allies of World War I and Germany, their last remaining opponent, declared the battles that had raged on the land and sea, and in the air, would officially cease at 11:00 that morning . . . the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
Of course, the fighting did not cease at the appointed hour; shelling actually continued throughout the day, only ending as the sun retreated from the sky. The original agreement was intended to last 36 days and was continually renewed until the Treaty of Versailles was signed the following year. The state of war between the Allies and Germany officially ended on that date, June 28, 1919—five years to the day when Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination set off the chain of events that led to a war which literally encompassed the world.
The following year, on November 11, 1919, Great Britain observed the first Armistice Day, pausing the activities for two minutes of silence in recognition of those who died in the conflict and those who had been left behind. As the years passed, more and more countries began acknowledging the horrors of the war by honoring those who lost their lives during the conflict . . . until the world was again engulfed in strife.
The end of World War II found many nations following the lead of Canada and changing the name of this somber day from Armistice Day to Remembrance Day in honor of all who fought in battle, no matter where or when. Rather than choosing to observe Remembrance Day, the United States changed the name to All Veterans Day . . . which was eventually shortened to the Veterans Day we now celebrate.
So why the history lesson? Because Friday, November 11, 2022 will mark 104 years since the world sought peace at the end of a truly global conflict. And over the intervening years, the honor and recognition of our Veterans Day has grown to include all those who are or have been members of our armed forces. On that day we acknowledge with gratitude their service, whether in combat or not, knowing it required a sacrifice on their parts and the parts of their families. Their lives may not have been demanded of them, but they did not know that when they responded to their country’s call. And they still answered.
Now as this day approaches, with all its parades and proclamations, take a moment and think about the veterans you know. Think back to the original meaning of the day . . . to those who fought and never made it home and those who were blessed enough to survive . . . what they must have seen and heard . . . and how they carried it with them for the rest of their lives. For those who were fortunate enough never to see combat, be grateful for their willingness to go. And above all, take a moment to truly honor all of them for their commitment and dedication to serving our country. The words of Winston Churchill, spoken to Parliament on August 20, 1940, rang true during World War II and still hold true today. “Never . . . was so much owed by so many to so few.”
About the author: Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926. She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there. Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.