This Saturday, November 11, will mark the 104th observance of Veterans Day in the United States, a day marked by solemnity and reverence to honor those who have served in our nation’s military. Veteran’s Day initially was known as Armistice Day when it was enacted in 1919 in observance of the first anniversary of the end of World War I, which occurred on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
World War I was marked by trench warfare in which neither the German-allied nations (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire) nor the alliance among England, France, Russia, and the United States, accomplished anything. Historians to this day cannot even pinpoint a rational reason for why it began. The trench lines did not meaningfully shift for the entire four-year period of the war. In the meantime, the European continent was ravaged, with 10 million soldiers and another 10 million civilians losing their lives.
More significantly, the “war to end all wars” only set the stage for an even bloodier world-wide conflagration 20 years later with WWII. Indeed, the roots of today’s conflict in the Middle East can be traced to the shift in control of the Middle East after WWI from the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) to England, which eventually led to the so-called British Mandate for Palestine after the end of WWII.
In the aftermath of the Korean War in 1954, Armistice Day officially became known as Veterans Day to include veterans of all of our wars. There are many ways that each of us can honor our veterans, including attending parades and ceremonies in our communities, visiting veterans memorials and cemeteries, volunteering with veterans organizations, donating to veterans causes, flying the U.S. flag, thanking a veteran for their service, or simply taking a moment to reflect on the great sacrifice made by so many who have put their lives on the line to ensure that all of us can enjoy the freedoms that we hold as Americans today.
If nothing else, Veterans Day should remind us that freedom isn’t free and that maintaining our freedom since our nation’s founding has required the personal sacrifice of millions of our fellow Americans.