November 11, 2014
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the fighting in “The Great War” was officially over. Germany, the last of the Central Powers to yield, reluctantly signed a ceasefire agreement with the Allied forces marking the end of World War I. Known as the Armistice of Compiègne, it halted the hostilities until an actual peace agreement could be settled upon and signed 6 months later. The armistice allowed the fighting to cease without Germany having to actually surrender, though it was still considered a defeat of the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria) by the Allies (America, Britain, France, Japan, the Russian Empire (until the Revolution), Italy). Although the Central Powers were fighting together, each country signed their own armistices. Final peace with Germany was reached on June 28, 1919, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. It was fitting this date was chosen as it marked the 5-year anniversary of the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the event that actually sparked “war to end all wars.”
In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson, along with most other Allied leaders, proclaimed November 11th as the holiday Armistice Day. Upon the announcement Wilson said, "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations."
Though the day was observed across the nation, it was not made a legal holiday until May 13, 1938, by a Congressional Act declaring it "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'." Ironically, just two days before the year’s Armistice Day celebration, German Jews suffered the Nazi riot known as the Crystal Night (or Kristallnacht). It was the response to a Polish Jew assassinating a German diplomat. Jewish businesses, hospitals, homes, schools, cemeteries and synagogues were vandalized, damaged and destroyed in retaliation. It was dubbed Crystal Night referring to all the broken glass in the streets after the 2-day rampage. German authorities soon required Jews wear a yellow star of David. Fearing for their safety, German Jews also began paying large indemnities. The following year Hitler invaded Poland and within three years the United States entered World War II. The Allies and Central Powers were divided again with the exception of Japan, who changed sides. This war also brought the torture and execution of 6 millions Jews at the hands of the Nazis. World peace was yet to be found.
Armistice Day is still celebrated throughout the world in most Allied nations on or around November 11th. Several counties changed the name after World War II, such as Remembrance Day. In 1954 Congress passed a bill renaming the day 'All Veterans Day', later shortened to 'Veterans Day', so Americans could honor veterans of all wars.
Veterans Day has been observed and celebrated in America on November 11th ever since except for a brief time in the 1970’s. Following the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, the holiday was moved to the 4th Monday in October in 1971. It was quickly decided the significance of the date was too important so President Ford returned it to November 11th starting in 1978.
Across the globe, millions stop for a 2-minute moment of silence at 11:00am, honoring the time the last armistice of WWI took effect. Originally the first minute was to reflect on the 20 million lives lost in the conflict while the second minute remembered the loved ones left behind. Many still continue this tradition extending their thoughts to all veterans.
Though we set aside this day to officially recognize and honor the brave men and women who put their lives on the line for freedom and liberty, we should praise these veterans every day. Even if it is just a simple thank you and a handshake, we need to remember and appreciate these men and women who selflessly served their country.
God Bless Our Veterans and God Bless America.
That’s my 2 cents.