Today is the 100th anniversary of one of the most solemn times in our country’s history.
The 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month is a phrase that should never be forgotten. That’s when guns were officially silenced and The War to End All Wars was over.
Some credit President Woodrow Wilson with uttering the words that were soon disproven and continue to be disproven too often a century later. First, it was The Great War and then it was The War to End All Wars and, finally, it’s primarily known as World War I.
From World War I [and before that through many conflicts fought on American soil] through World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the War on Terror, Harford County has done its share. Military personnel and their families in the county families have paid heavy costs and made the ultimate sacrifice in support of each of those wars.
Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace have special Veterans Day observances planned. A part of the services will be the reading of the names of those from Harford County who lost their lives in World War I. In addition to placing flags on the graves of veterans in Angel Hill Cemetery and the 11 a.m. service in Tydings Park, Havre de Grace will have a ceremony at 10 a.m. to dedicate a flag court in Veterans Park on Concord Street in the memory of J. Noble Mentzer. Mr. Mentzer, a community icon, was a veteran who has long attended or participated in Veterans Day celebrations in Havre de Grace. He died in May at age 90.
Every Veterans Day service should be special for what it represents and those it honors rather than singling out any individuals or groups. In Bel Air and Havre de Grace, fittingly, an exception is being made as the names of those killed in The Great War will be read.
In Havre de Grace, there were 11 native sons who perished in The Great War. Mayor William T. Martin read the name of each with a few details about them at Monday night’s City Council meeting. The same will be done at today’s 11 a.m. service in Tydings Park.
In Bel Air, the names of all of Harford County’s native sons will be read during the service. Those killed in action are immortalized on a memorial on Main Street in Bel Air.
Here’s a bit of a U.S. history lesson explaining the genesis of Veterans Day, which should be a reminder of why it needs to always solemnly observed.
“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,” according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website. “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.’ ”
In November 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 the first Armistice Day, he is credited with saying the following: "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…"
It wasn’t until May 13, 1938, when Nov. 11 each year was dedicated as a holiday, “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day," according to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs.
“ 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.’ "
Sirens will blare and bells will ring at 11 am. today to honor the 100th anniversary of World War I. Please pause and have a moment of silent reflection about how great our nation is and the countless people who have given their lives to keep it the greatest nation on earth.