On November the 11th, 1919 at 11:00 AM the “War to end all Wars” officially came to and end. The term “at the eleventh hour” became part of the vernacular for “at the very last moment,” as the great powers of Europe and the United States drew the curtain on the war that claimed a generation, and changed the course of history in ways so profound that the effects are still felt today. This event was the origin of Veterans Day.
When I was a lad, I went along on a job with an Uncle who was a plumber by trade. I was told by the lady of the house that we went to, not to pay any attention or be put off by her father, a very elderly gentleman.
As we sat in the living room, my curiosity for things historic got the better of me, and I started a conversation, certain that I would hear tales of the Great Depression, or World War II. Little did I realize that I was chatting with a verteran of the Great War.
I spent hours listening to his stories – much to everyone’s suprise. He told me how he had lied about his age, and enlisted at just 13 years old – not much older than I was at that time. He told me stories about the trenches, and his comrades in arms. I wanted to hear everything he could tell, because I knew that survivors of that war were growing fewer all the time, and soon that period would pass from all memory, and into history.
I knew his was the “Lost Generation.” He rmembered the last war fought (at the start) in the old European way; with waves of men and valiant charges. He was one of the fortunate ones that survived the trenches and came home to unknowingly share death with millions more of their countrymen through the first modern pandemic – the Influenza outbreak of 1919.
They fought as their country bid them and they won the war, but lost civilization to mechanization, corporations and desensitization.
I wish now that I had known then to ask him more about the times he came from, and not just the war. Now I can only learn second hand from books about that lovely, civilized Gilded Age before the war. A time when life moved at a slower pace.
On Veterans Day, please remember to commemorate and thank that lost generation of men that fought the machinery of the modern age, and died to reserve a place for honor, dignity and humanity in a world reduced to industrialization and progress for profit.
As Booth Tarkington said, “the faster we’re carried, the less time we have to spare.”
Now on Veterans Day, I call the friends and family that I have that survived other wars. They expect no thanks. They did their duty as it was required, expecting no thanks and trying their best to fit back into the lives they left behind before they were called or chose to serve. I take the time on that day, and on others to clean and help maintain the graves of those whom wa spared, but time has taken.
This Veterans Day, thank a Vet from another war or another time that you meet. Any that served sacrificed something of themselves, and rather they want it or not, they all deserve gratitude for it.