Armistice Day, or Veterans Day as it is known now, was set up to celebrate the end of the fighting in World War I 100 years ago today on Nov. 11, 1918. On that day, German representatives signed a truce between the Allies and Germany.
The signing took place in a railroad car in the forest of Compiegne, France. On each Nov. 11, most of the Allied countries commemorate the event.
The celebration in the United States is centered at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. In many places throughout the world, a period of silence is observed at 11 a.m., the hour in which the fighting in World War I stopped.
The Congress of the United States made Armistice Day a legal holiday for the District of Columbia in 1938. All the states also have made it a holiday. In 1954, Congress changed the name to Veterans Day.
In the 11th month, on the 11th day and at the 11th hour, the fighting officially stopped. There was joy, there was happiness and there was celebration. This was a special day, and still is.
To give the many government workers a long weekend, Veterans Day was changed to a Monday. But through the efforts of the American Legion and others, that decision was rescinded. Veterans Day remains on Nov. 11, as it should.
On this 100th anniversary of the end of the war, there are no remaining U.S. veterans of World War I. Frank Buckles, the last living U.S. World War I veteran, died in 2001 at age 110.
In special remembrance of World War I, one of the most famous poems from the war will be recited today. Its words are an enduring tribute to those who served in combat and those who gave their lives in what was supposed to be the “war to end all wars.”
Lt. Col. John McCrae, a Canadian Army surgeon, wrote “In Flanders Fields” in 1915 after allied forces suffered devastating losses from chlorine-gas attacks and after a friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer, was killed on May 2 by an artillery shell.
Veterans Day now pays tribute to veterans of all wars and is often memorialized by the wearing of poppies, a prominent theme in the 15-line poem:
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.