Today, 97 years ago, the guns fell silent across Europe. The trenches could be emptied, No Man’s Land begin the process of grassing over, and the thousands of men and women who had left their homes all over the globe could begin the journey home. For many other thousands, they would remain buried in cemeteries across Europe. (A tradition begun by America’s over-fascination with war cemeteries, to European minds…then they started to do it to.)
Today, that day, Armistice Day, is celebrated my many countries to commemorate the war dead of all those who fell defending their country. in England today, many stopped at 11:11 (Or 11 am) local time to have a moment of silence for the dead. Special services, wreath layings, and other commemorations will occur across Europe. The Poppy, a flower commemorated in the now-famous poem, “In Flanders Fields”, is the flower of the war dead.
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.
–In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae. In 2014, the Tower of London hosted this installation of ceramic poppies, one for each Commonwealth soldier lost in WWI. It filled the moat.
But America never joined them. Fifty years earlier, we’d torn ourselves apart in a conflict now called “The War Between the States” or the “Civil War” (among other names). As part of the healing process, a “Decoration Day” in late May had been established, to decorate the graves of the fallen, and remember their sacrifice. Later, it was re-named, Memorial Day. As the Spanish American war, and The Great War (WWI) followed, those dead were also remembered on that day.
So Congress established Veteran’s Day, a day to commemorate and honor all veterans and their service, those who returned, and those who didn’t. (Though we did, in honor of the end of WWI, establish the Tomb of the Unknown Solider on November 11)
So please, take a moment today, to remember those in your family tree, community, neighborhood, who answered the call. Remember all those who left their homes to defend them from various enemies. No matter what conflict, it takes bravery, whether heading to sea, or the front, or donning a nurse’s uniform and heading to a medical unit, or taking to the skies in increasingly experimental airplanes, to leave the comforts of home for the discomforts and strain of war.
War is expensive, in every way possible. But those who were willing to stand in the gap and go should be thanked and remembered.
If they are willing to talk, ask them about their services. Remember the stories they are willing to tell.
But above all, thank them. Even if they came home, their service cost them.
Today, I’m remembering:
My grandfather, Al, who serviced in the 903rd HAM unit in North Africa. His records, like most Army personnel records were destroyed in 1973 in the Nat’l Personnel Records Office Fire. I’m still having difficulty discovering what all he did. He never talked. I wish he had. But thank you Grandpa, for your service.
My “Grandpa” James Alls, who appears on this blog occasionally. He served on the Flier which started this blog. A bar fight he broke up while on Shore Patrol shattered his jaw. That injury grounded him for Flier’s second, and as it turned out, final patrol. I love to hear his stories. Thank you Grandpa Jim, for your service.
My Uncle Jim, who served in the Air Force in the late 1960’s. Thank you.
My second great-grandfather in law, Wilhelm Bergmann, who served in the 32nd Indiana Infantry during the Civil War, aka “The German Regiment”. Thank you for being willing to serve a country in turmoil, just a few short months after coming.
My fifth great grandfather, Henry D, who, as a mulatto man, served three enlistments during the Revolutionary War. Thank you for serving a brand new nation, even after what you’d been through, and what you would go through. You still made a difference to your hundreds of descendants.
My submarine friends, both active and retired (hence the reason I’m not naming them here), who prowled the seas and still do so today. Thank you for your Silent Service.
A young man who I watched grow up and now serves somewhere in the world on a US ship. Thank you, “R”.
A young woman who had to retire too quickly due to injuries, and now studies law. Thank You, “C”
An older man who served multiple deployments and still works with veterans and law enforcement. Thank you, ‘T”
And my husband. Who insists, as a former Marine Reservist who never had to deploy, he’s uncomfortable with the term, “Veteran”. Still, you were willing to go. The fact that injuries forced your early retirement too, doesn’t negate the fact that you signed up, trained, and were willing to go. I thank you for that willingness.
And there are so, so many more. But this blog entry must close.
For those who served, are serving, or will serve, Thank You.
Thank You All, who stood in the gap.
Have a safe and blessed Veteran’s Day.
If you want to leave a story of your time in service, or a story you’ve heard from a veteran, please leave a comment. Let’s keep these stories alive. (There will be a lag between submission and posting as I have to screen out comment bots from around the world. I’ll clear you as quickly as I can.)