Let Us Solemnly Remember
Tomorrow. November 11th. Do you know what the day signifies?
In Great Britain and the Commonwealth, November 11th is known as Remembrance Day.
In the United States, we call it Veterans Day.
Its roots are the same. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the Armistice was signed between Germany and the Allied Forces in Rethondes, France, signifying the end of World War One.
On the first year anniversary, President Woodrow Wilson commemorated the day, calling it Armistice Day, and beginning the tradition of honoring those who had fought in what was then thought to be the war to end all wars.
In 1921, following the examples of Britain and France, Congress approved the erection of the Tomb of the Unknown soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. On November 11th, 1921, a unnamed soldier killed in France was officially interred there in a ceremony officiated by President Warren Harding. As the inscription on the back of the tomb reads, Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God. On that day, November 11th was officially inaugurated as the day to be set aside to honor all those who had served in WW1.
They are the race—
they are the race immortal,
Whose beams make broad
the common light of day!
Though Time may dim,
though Death has barred their portal,
These we salute,
which nameless passed away.
- Victoria Regina by Laurence Housman
In 1938, Congress made November 11th a legal federal holiday “to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’”
Sadly, as we all know too well, the First World War was not the war that would end all wars. In only a few short years, the United States would be plunged into the horrors of World War Two, fighting on multiple fronts against many foes united under the Axis powers. Suddenly, the honored veterans were no longer from one war, but two.
It was on November 11th, 1947, when a WW2 veteran named Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, Alabama, organized the first Veterans Day celebration in his hometown. In 1953, the citizen of Emporia, Kansas officially changed Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day so that all the veterans who had served the nation would be honored. It was Kansas Congressman Edward H. Rees who proposed legislation in Congress to change the name, and in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved the amendment to the Act of 1938.
My family has a rich military background on both maternal and paternal sides. I also have multiple members and friends who have or are currently serving today. It is because of their heroic lifestyle of service that I believe strongly in the integrity and importance of this day. However, I know that I can never know nor express gratitude amply enough for the sacrifices made by these men and women. But I can take several moments and reflect over the well chosen words of many others who have served and have eloquently declaimed the strength, rectitude, and honor of their brothers and sisters in arms.
From the 1941 speech delivered by Franklin D. Roosevelt on Armistice Day at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers:
From Douglas MacArthur’s 1962 address at West Point Academy to 2,100 cadets upon his receipt of the Sylvanus Thayer Award, an honor given to an individual “whose outstanding character, accomplishments, and stature in the civilian community draw wholesome comparison to the qualities for which West Point strives, in keeping with its motto: ‘Duty, Honor, Country’”:
From a speech deliver to the Semper Fi Society in St Louis by General John F. Kelly, a mere four days after the loss of his son in combat: (A little context is necessary for this quote. Kelly chronicles the death of two Marines who stood watch over 150 Marines and Iraqi police bedded down in a ramshackle barracks when a truck- clearly intent on detonating to destroy the make-shift barracks and kill all within, came flying full throttle at them. The two Marines- both under the age of 25- stood their guard without flinching. They simply presented their weapons, aimed, and fired into the truck’s cab, bringing it to a halt inches from where they stood. The camera footage that survived recorded the moment from when the truck entered the street until it’s explosion: six seconds.)
And, since I cannot truly know what it means to serve, as I have never done so myself, I’ll end with an excerpt from an account written by former U.S. Marine Joe Carter entitled, What a Veteran Knows:
To those reading who are veterans or in service, I say, Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for your service.
And tomorrow, dear readers, on November 11th, take to heart the words of Eisenhower: “Let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.”