Veterans Day 2006
At the llth hour of the llth day of the llth month, of the Year of Our Lord 1918, after more than four years of continuous warfare, the guns fell silent all along the Western Front. From the English Channel to the Swiss border, those who survived the killing gave thanks for the miracle that they had lived to hear...the sound of silence.
This poem, "In Flanders Fields," was written by Canadian army doctor John McCrae. It gave voice to the universal desire not to repeat the senseless slaughter that was trench-warfare by honoring the dead on each anniversary of the day the shooting war ended:
America entered the war in 1917 after millions of troops and civilians had already died in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
But hundreds of thousands of Americans did experience the horrors of trench warfare and 116,516 of them made the ultimate sacrifice in what the survivors would soon call The War To End All Wars and which we call World War I.
As we know now, the War To End All Wars wasn't, and the 11th of November, which we Americans used to call Armistice Day, is now observed as Veterans Day in honor of all of America's men and women who have worn the uniform and done their duty to God and Country. Even now, they stand ready to defend our nation, our homes, our families, and our very way of life.
It is to them that we give our heartfelt gratitude.
A few of those Americans who served in the Great War are very much alive. Learn about them here and here. Meet Charlotte Winters, who is the last living female veteran of World War I, there.