The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

November 10, 2017

"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…."

 

(In Flanders Fields was written by Canadian Colonel John McCrae, a poet and physician on the front lines in WWl. McRae was asked to fill in for a chaplain at a service for a fallen soldier. It is the most recognized and quoted tribute to come out of The Great War, The War to End all Wars.)

 

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in the year 1918, the thunder from the big guns in Europe was silenced and World War I ended. From the carnage of death and destruction known as the “War to End all Wars,” soldiers, statesmen and citizens paid tribute to heroes, both alive and dead. It was called Armistice Day. On the one year anniversary of the end of the war, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 to be henceforth known as Armistice Day.

 

World Wars l and ll have taken their places in our national psyche alongside the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Still, history books alone cannot relive nor adequately describe the day-to-day life or death situations faced by our brave soldiers. It used to be called “Shellshock” and “The Thousand Yard Stare,” now updated to PTSD and other terms, to describe the after-effects of combat on the human mind. Imagine, far from home, friends and loved ones, not knowing if the next bullet, shell, bomb or disease germ has your name on it.

 

Here’s how one soldier who lived through it describes it. Toward the end of World War II, Cloverdale resident Barb Loiselle’s father fought alongside General George “Blood and Guts” Patton in his famous dash across Europe. Barb's father said, “Of all the horrors in the world that a young man might face, none can match the terror of combat.”

 

Throughout history, American soldiers have answered the call. The Treaty of Versailles was thought of at the time to end all wars. It placed severe restrictions on post-war Germany, particularly limiting any buildup of armaments. However, they secretly began a massive military buildup. That, coupled with Hitler’s rise to power, resulted in World War II. Thus followed another great war where Americans paid a great price in blood and treasure.

 

A short five years later, American soldiers again answered the call in a police action known as the Korean War, where many more Americans were killed and maimed.

 

President Dwight D. Eisenhower recognized that the veterans of all wars needed special recognition, so on June 1, 1954, issued a proclamation changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

 

Today, Veterans Day is observed on November 11, thereby connecting the dots to the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month ending of WWl. France, Belgium, England and many other nations recognize this day as well.

 

So this brings us to November 11, 2017. Across the nation, veterans will be honored in parades, speeches and other special events. In Hinckley, the Grand Casino is offering a free meal for area veterans. There may be other events planned that are not known at this time.

 

Remembering “All gave some, some gave all,” there have been many a fine tribute written to and about veterans. The following is new to this writer. It is worth passing on.

 

Dear veterans,

Those of us who have not served will never fully understand the sacrifices you’ve made both in times of peace and war.

We will never fully understand what you were required to do or how you were able to do it.

We will never understand the depth of your scars, but what we can offer is this:

We see you.

We recognize your humanity. 

And we send you love that is gentle, patient and healing.

With blessings and gratitude, we ask that you remember that you are loved.

Thank you, 

Sydney Sweeney

 

 

 

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