November 11 marks the conclusion to one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history. For veterans of The Great War and all veterans since, we honor their sacrifice. There can be no comparison to those who give everything for their country.
The European continent was a maelstrom of chaos and tragedy from 1914 to 1918. When new weapons mixed with outdated tactics, waves of infantry were simply erased from the battlefield. The latest marvels of the world—the submarine and airplane—brought terror to civilians and soldiers. Cities and villages were blasted into ruins. The soldiers and civilians not claimed in battle were taken by disease, the indiscriminate reaper in all war. More than 116,000 Americans lost their lives in this wholesale slaughter, but the carnage would be easily surpassed by a greater conflict in 1939. Armistice Day was originally enacted to remember The Great War, then transformed into Veterans Day to recognize all who have served in our military.
Since the end of 1918, servicemen and women have fought in places like Bougainville, Inchon, Vietnam, Grenada, Kuwait, Bosnia, Baghdad, and Afghanistan. The best way to honor their achievements is to remember these places, and the worst way to honor our soldiers is to forget them.
Those who have fallen in war have offered us the greatest sacrifice, but it is difficult for me to grasp this idea. Men and women in my family who have seen service in the military were willing to step into harm’s way. Our freedom is ensured by those who freely commit to war. When a soldier loses his life to a bullet many miles from home, that is one less bullet sent after civilians. We mourn their loss among families, in church or public ceremony, or beneath the marble face of monuments. . . but we are still protected by their deeds.
I have studied military history for twenty years and will continue to do so until my dying day. This is how I honor our veterans. How will you honor them on Veterans Day?
United States Department of Veterans Affairs http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp
Wikipedia article “World War I casualties” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties
Photo: U.S. Army Historical Center