World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
And honour we should. (Hi daddy, I love you.) I don’t know if there are any surviving vets from WW1, but we all know vets from WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Not to mention the men and women who voluntarily joined the service in times of peace, ready to serve.
Whether voluntary or conscripted, and whether serving in a “good” war or a “detested” war, these men and women went off to stand for America. In freezing cold, blistering heat, in daily danger. They deserve our respect and our thanks. A special call out to those conscripted for Vietnam: we should have been much more kind when you came home.
Shamefully, we as a society do not give to these brave men and women what they deserve. Last year, 2,266 vets died because they lacked health insurance. An inordinate number live on the streets. Too many suffer from physical and mental afflictions for which they cannot get treatment.