Today is Veteran’s Day, but it also marks the 90th Anniversary of the the original impetus for this holiday. Veterans day was not always known by this name, in the beginning it was called Armistice Day, and was meant to celebrate the war to end all wars (that’s WWI for you non-history people). The Armistice took effect on November 11, 1918 at 11:00 A.M. or at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. That date quickly became a holiday in Allied nations to commemorate the many Allied troops that had died during the Great War. Since then, however, we have been through World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and countless other minor skirmishes throughout the world.
It was President Eisenhower, in 1954, who signed a bill into law proclaiming November 11th as Veteran’s Day, and as such, a day of remembrance for all veterans past and present. Since then today has been the day (although for 10 years it was celebrated on the 4th Monday of October until it was changed back to November 11th because of the historical significance) that we all take to remember the sacrifices of those who came before us that helped to ensure that we would get to live in a free society. So if you have the day off take some time to remember the sacrifices of other and then proceed with the drunken revelry.
In honor of the origins of Veteran’s Day I am posting a small selection from Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth, which detailed her life through World War I. This is one of my favorite passages, and if you haven’t read this book yet, you should. It’s rather long, but it is well worth the time. This excerpt comes as Vera is working on the French front as a nurse. It is 1917, and the war has taken a toll physically, mentally, and emotionally on the Allied troops, and the prospects of victory seem slim:
They looked larger than ordinary men;their tall, straight figures were in contrast to the under-sized armies of pale recruits to which we had grown accustomed. At first I thought their spruce, clean uniforms were those of officers, yet obviously they could not be officers, for their were too many of them; they seemed, as it were, as Tommies in heaven. Had yet another regiment been conjured out of our depleted Dominions? I wondered, watching them move with such rhythm, such dignity, such serene consciousness of self-respect. But I knew the colonial troops so well, and these were different; they were assured where the Australians were aggressive, self-possessed where the New Zealanders were turbulent.
Then I heard an excited exclamation from a group of Sisters behind me.
“Look! Look! Here are the Americans!”
I pressed forward with the others to watch the United States physically entering the War, so godlike, so magnificent, so splendidly unimpaired in comparison with the tired, nerve-racked men of the British Army. So these were our deliverers at last, marching up the road to Camiers in the spring sunshine! There seemed to be hundreds of them, and in the fearless swagger of their proud strength they looked a formidable bulwark against the peril looming from Amiens.
Somehow the necessity of packing up in a hurry, the ignominious flight to the coast so long imagined, seemed to move further away. An uncontrollable emotion seized us seized me- as such emotions often seized us in those days of insufficient sleep; my eyeballs pricked, my throat ached, and a mist swam over the confident Americans going to the front. The coming of relief made me realise all at once how long and how intolerable had been the tension, and with the knowledge that we were not, after all, defeated, I found myself beginning to cry.
So that’s it now go out and celebrate, and pour some suds out for those who didn’t make it.
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