Veteran’s Day – The Day We Remember has Been Forgotten

Posted on November 10, 2009

veterans_dayOriginally published November 9, 2009.

I guess we now call it Veteran’s Day.  The name changes to holidays and remembrances have been so profuse and the reasons for them so varied that many of us have become very confused by the calendar and it isn’t age related. But I am also annoyed.

In these United States today, we try to be either so overly politically correct or  to cram all manner of events under one broad category that the history of and reason for the day having been put aside has been lost for many years.

It is lovely to remember ALL veterans but the history of this special time that the Europeans still call Remembrance Day and that we formerly called Armistice Day deserves to clearly mark the end of World War I for all  time.

WWI that lasted from 1914-1918 has been called “the war to end all wars.”  That naive assessment alone is deserving of preservation. The causes are not simple but most just remember the murder of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his young wife as the primary trigger for the conflagration.  For many scholars, the shots fired this day initiated our journey to World War II to the Cold War. []

It was the first “modern” war.  Horses were all but abandoned except for transport of canon in the field. A new type of warfare came into being – trench warfare.  Among the many technological advances that catapulted us to a new level of conflict were:

  • The French Renault Tank
  • German U-Boat
  • Airplanes
  • The Zeppelin (Blimps)
  • Flame Throwers
  • Grenade Launchers
  • Poison Gas
  • Machine Gun [WickiAnswers]

Heretofore, most conflicts had been known for the introduction of or adaptation of perhaps a single major advance in technology – and very often that adapted from an adversary such as swifter  horses, the long bow, or faster ships.  But the number and varieties of new technologies that came out of this war were staggering.

WWI ended with the signing of an “armistice” in a railroad car at Compiègne in the forest of Rethondes 40 miles north of Paris.  Today, almost 100 years later, the farther one goes from the east coast of the United States, the less you see of the formerly ubiquitous paper “poppies” that have been sold each “Veteran’s Day.”  The tradition of the poppy came out of World War I:

The poppy‘s significance to Remembrance Day is a result of Canadian military physician John McCrae‘s poem In Flanders Fields. The poppy emblem was chosen because of the poppies that bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their red colour an appropriate symbol for the bloodshed of trench warfare.

Sophie, wife of Prince Edward

Sophie, Countess of Wessex and wife of Prince Edward of England

An American YMCA Overseas War Secretaries employee, Moina Michael, was inspired to make 25 silk poppies based on McCrae’s poem, which she distributed to attendees of the YMCA Overseas War Secretaries’ Conference.[25] She then made an effort to have the poppy adopted as a national symbol of remembrance, and succeeded in having the National American Legion Conference adopt it two years later. At this conference, a Frenchwoman, Anna E. Guérin, was inspired to introduce the widely used artificial poppies given out today. In 1921 she sent her poppy sellers to London, England, where they were adopted by Field Marshall Douglas Haig, a founder of the Royal British Legion, as well as by veterans’ groups in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.[Wikipedia]

There are two Veterans Day ceremonies that have had a sobering effect on me because they conveyed a sense of the lingering feeling of a loss of innocence that characterized this first “modern war” and that runs as a thread through those that have followed.  One is in Britain at the Cenoptaph and the other at Harvard’s Memorial Church.

memorial_church2While working on a project at Harvard University, I heard the mournful toll of the Memorial Church bell on a day other than Sunday.  It has a distinctive sound – deep and sonorous. I followed it to see what had happened.  The memorial service at the eleventh-hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month [the time, day and month the armistice was signed] had begun.

I was drawn inside with others. The elegiac mood of the place is underscored by tomb effigies that hark back to the middle ages. It had been dedicated on “Armistice Day 1932” in memory of the fallen sons of Harvard in WWI. Harvard U effigy

Prince Harry on Rembrance Day 2009

HRH Prince Harry lays a wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, London, 2009

Just after 9/11, a visit to London demonstrated the degree to which Europeans still honor the day.  Poppies are everywhere on sale and the royal family lay wreaths at both the tomb of the unknown at Westminster Abbey and at the Cenotaph.

VETERANS DAY DOUGHBOYS (OP)At least in some parades around this nation men dress as WWI “Doughboys” and march with other units.  But do the children and their parents lining the streets even know why they are there and what the uniforms represent?  History is not something that is studied by most today outside the viewing of an occasional documentary with period music.  Perhaps we should have a day called “Remembrance Day” that encourages us to remember our history.

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Hot Air – Happy Veterans Day!

BigGovernment – Wednesday Open Thread: Armistice Day Edition

AtlasShrugs2000 – Veterans Day: 1000 thanks ……….a debt that can never be paid

Frugal Cafe – Veterans Day Art Tribute: New Google Doodle Logo, Norman Rockwell Military Tributes


The Snooper Report – Happy Veterans Day, November 11th, 2009