Column: Thoughts on veterans and ‘The Great War’

Although today is the federal holiday commemorating Veterans Day, tomorrow is the anniversary of the end of World War I at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918. Headlines across the nation proclaimed, “The Great War Ends,” with the New York Tribune’s, “Germany Has Surrendered, World War Ended at 6 A.M.” Worldwide newspapers printed equally enthusiastic banners, hailing the “Allies Drastic Armistice Terms to Huns,” (found in the London Daily Mirror). The “war to end all wars” was over, a huge sigh of relief echoing around the globe. One year later, on November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson established Armistice Day, to honor those who served. Although first intended to commemorate servicemen who died in World War I. President Eisenhower signed a bill into law in 1954, establishing Armistice Day as a day to honor all veterans who served in the United States Armed Services. The bill was amended shortly afterward changing the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day—without the apostrophe, please. Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day, which remembers those who died in service, nor Armed Forces Day, which honors those who are currently serving.

When Wilson addressed the nation on that November day in 1919, he emphasized the sacrifices and hardships experienced by the European Allies who had fought for more than four years. The United States’ entrance into the war in April of 1917 was a turning point for the Allies, and the fray ended a little over a year and a half later. Wilson stressed that nations working together won the war. He said, “Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert. The war showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men. To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with – solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.”

Working together. What an amazing concept which seems to be foreign in current business and politics. We cannot deny, however, that working together with our allies was the key to winning two world wars. No matter what revisionist historians like to say, we haven’t always been the winners, but when we did win, it was not alone. Isolationism has never worked. We’ve often heard it said that “no man is an island.” Neither is a community, town, city, state, nor country. We are all affected by where we live, how we live, and those who live around us, a good reason to work together. And, please, thank the veterans who secured our freedom.

Until next time.