You’ve heard the line; this is the day. On November 11th, 1918, an armistice was declared pretty much ending the First World War. Many of the Commonwealth nations (those former colonies of Britain that didn’t have an armed revolution to declare their independence) celebrate today as Remembrance Day and their celebration of the day goes back to November 11, 1919 and is a pledge to honor those who died and their families. After World War II, the day now remembers all the fall in any war.
Here in the US, the day was celebrated as Armistice Day (Originally celebrated by the King of England in 1918) until 1954 when the name was changed to Veteran’s day to honor all those who served (both alive and dead) during the wars the country endured. Our Memorial Day is closer to the Commonwealths’ Remembrance Day. The night long vigil to watch over the dead is a remnant of times when many feared being buried alive (given the medicine at the time, it was a real possibility) and the corpses of soldiers being mutilated by the enemy.
Many of us recognize the poppy as the symbol of this day and its use came from two poems: In Flanders Fields by John McCrae (A Canadian) and the poem it inspired by Moina Michael called We Shall Keep the Faith. Ms. Michael’s work is often credited with making the poppy a symbol of the Great War and used the sale of the flowers to raise funds for ex-servicemen.
Remembering our service people is vital, for they have given us so much and are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice because we the people messed up and didn’t stand up when we should have. So I will leave you with this poem by Pastor Niemöller who was sent to a concentration camp in 1937.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Perhaps the greatest honor we can give our Veterans is to not need them to clean up our mistakes.
Until next time.