Armistice Day 2021 (aka Veterans Day)

POSTNOTE Nov. 12: This mornings e-mail brought a powerful lesson from the end of WWI from Heather Cox Richardson.  You can read it here.

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The annual observance of the end of WWI, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 is today.  I wasn’t around then.  Most places it has been and continues to be called Armistice Day.  A good article on the day can be read here.

In the U.S., since the early 1950s, Armistice Day has been called Veterans Day.  Veterans for Peace, of which I’m part, still remembers the day as Armistice Day.  The 2021 observance is in Minneapolis this year.  Details are here.  The event this year is in northeast Minneapolis.  I will probably attend, as I have, most years.

Personally, my most memorable day observance was in London, in early November, 2001, two months after 9-11.

We arrived in London about November 3, and the first day took a walking tour which included Westminster Cathedral, where preparations were under way for Armistice Day.  The three photos below, at Westminster, explain more than any words I could offer.

Preparing for Armistice Day.  London, at Westminster, Nov. 4, 2001

As can be noted, Armistice Day is a big deal in England.

But the most significant event for us was on November 11, 2001, at Gatwick Airport, while we were awaiting our flight home.  We were seated in the waiting area, and 1100 hours came, and there was a brief announcement on the intercom, calling for two minutes of silence in the airport in commemoration of those who had died in war.

How does one describe total silence in a very busy airport?  All I can say is that there was total silence, not so much as a babies cry did we hear.  Had I not experienced it, it would have been unbelievable.

The next year I attended my first Armistice Day observance at Ft. Snelling near our own airport.  The event was small and respectful and sponsored by the Vets for Peace, which I was just beginning to know.  I told the story about Gatwick for the first time there.  And every Nov. 11 I think of that morning in England.

Armistice Day emphasizes peace.  Always keep that in mind.

POSTNOTE: We were in London two months after 9-11-01.  The timing was due only to the fact that the trip had been scheduled and tickets purchased before 9-11-01.  The impression of England and the English at that tense time is overwhelmingly positive.  London was a welcoming place.  The photos above catch the feeling.  In so many ways, we all need to get back to the kind of gentleness that we experienced there, then.

Dog Tags. U.S. Army 1962-63

COMMENTS also at end of post.

from Sean: The below is a note from Mark K.  Mark was the head of school at AOS before he retired a few years ago. He was passionate about Veteran’s day, military service and gratitude for the former and appreciation for what many people served to protect. The amazing and beautiful USA. Flag duty was a BIG deal for the 4th graders!

We have so many problems but we can work through them if we honor and embrace our history and our respect for each other. We must remember how we became the greatest nation on earth. (I won’t lie – the last sentence was hard to write when I think of the current and recent behaviors of our elected officials).
Anyway, I share this because of a love and an aspiration for that which I hope we can achieve. If we all do our part, honor those who serve, and remember why they serve, and risk so much, we will all be better for it. We can all serve – today – for the greater good. I never served in the military and candidly I do regret that, but I am so grateful for those who have, and do.
Happy Veteran’s Day, God Bless.
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from Mark, via Sean:

Rummaging through the box of old newspaper clippings, I came across a yellowed article about my great uncle, Seaver Rice. Born in Saranac Lake, New York, in 1892, Uncle Seaver was the middle child of five Rice boys. Serving in different branches of the United States military, all five boys were veterans of WW I. Published in the Massachusetts newspaper the Stonebridge Press on Veterans Day in 1987, the article by Patricia Allen tells the story of Uncle Seaver being the last surviving member of a group of comrades who served together in WW I. In part, the article says:

Only one glass was raised.

On Saturday, Seaver Rice kept a 49-year-old pact to offer a toast to remember his World War I comrades of the 13 Club. The club of World War I veterans living in Southbridge was formed in 1939… The group met every Veterans Day for nearly 50 years. Patterning the 13 Club after the 13 colonies, the group formulated a charter to guide them… It was also decided in the charter that the last surviving member would drink a toast to the others.

Rice, 95, became the last surviving member of the club after the death of Howard W. Boal two weeks ago.

While he raised his glass for the now-deceased 12 members, his toast went beyond the boundaries of the circle of friends and even of the war itself. He toasted a country he loves passionately and fervently.

“This is to the country I fought for. Here’s to America. May she always stay in the right path,” he said, after which he brought the glass to his lips and took a hearty swallow.

Seaver’s solo voice embarked on one verse of “God Bless America.” From a memory completely unscathed by the detriments of age and sickness, he recited “In Flanders Fields.”

With a shaky hand and voice, but with powerful, heartfelt emotion, Rice completed his final and solitary mission for the war from his room at the Providence House Nursing Home.

Uncle Seaver passed away three months after the article was published.

Today, Veterans Day, is a day to remember and to show gratitude to those who have served our country in the line of duty. My grandfather was a veteran of World War I, and my father was a veteran of World War II. As has been my custom for the past thirty-six years, I will wear my father’s dog tags in his honor; I also will wear my grandfather’s pocket watch in his honor.

Today we do not glorify war, but we do remember—and thank—those who have sacrificed so much for the countries and causes in which they believed. Furthermore, we remember with gratitude and compassion the families and friends who have suffered because of war. Thank you, veterans—past and present—for what you have done for us all. And let this Veterans Day truly bring us all together as a unified nation in the spirit of my Uncle Seaver, and point us all in the direction of healing.

from Fred: Thank you, Dick for this very touching reminder about “Armistice Day” as we old timers still call it.

Dave and I were at breakfast in Woodbury with another friend on Weds when a man walked over to us. Our friend, who was wearing a baseball cap with vet info on it,  served in Japan during the early 60s, copying Chinese Army radio traffic. Turns out, this stranger was also in Japan, stationed about 100 miles to the north. He handed our pal a silver dollar-sized brass piece with an enameled US flag on it.
He topped off the encounter with a story that you, as a US Army vet might have heard before. “After high school I wanted to go into the Marines so I signed up and took the test. They called the next day to say I had been rejected [he paused]. They said I was too smart.”
Happy Armistice Day to a true Veteran!
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from Steve: You and I grew up when it was common to see men and women in uniform. The men in my family were among them. My dad and four of my uncles served in the navy, the army, or the coast guard. There was little question of their mission or commitment. Even after VE and VJ Day, we were reminded of a military pride when pardes on Memorial Day, Armistice Day, the 4th of July, the Aquatennial, and even in small town Homecomings included marching units and military bands. I was proud to see my dad marching in those parades, but worried later that he’d be sent away again when he was reactivated during the Korean War. The current US military presence is meant to be a peace-keeping effort, to reduce or end conflict even in regions far from our geographic boundaries where the mission is less easily understood. Regardless of their mission, the women and men in uniform, those who serve them, and those who wait for them to return deserve our support and our encouragement of the policies and practices that will bring them home again soon.
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from Molly:

Hi Friends,
In commemorating the day, a few thoughts:
-My generation had our parents’ generation totally engaged in World War 2. So many parts of all their daily lives were affected by the war effort, in addition to all those who served both in the military and on the home front…
The contrast with today’s fragmentation over so many topics now is dismaying, saddening, and downright scary–as the “me first” & “tear it all down” (rather than “let’s fix this”) attitude needs constant countering.
-So many of my generation and those a bit younger also served–in Viet Nam and Afghanistan and other places–we still owe these vets a lot of support of various sorts. And explanations…
-The concept of some sort of National Service is an idea which I wish had been carefully developed and pursued…it might have led to more people having a feeling of  enough investment in this country to really working to improve it, and move us more towards the ideals of the founding fathers (and mothers,of course).
Enough sermon. A blogger that I follow linked to the attached a few days ago… one of the amazing stories of WW2, and of very different groups working together for the common good. Veterans’ Day post
Blessings of the day to each of you. And, of course, a virtual big hug.
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from Juel:

 A lovely poem, so true

This poem was shared with me – it makes you think – thought I’d pass it on to people who might appreciate it.

A lovely poem, so true

Where Did The Country Go Wrong 

He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion,
Telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.

And ‘tho sometimes to his neighbours
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew whereof he spoke.

But we’ll hear his tales no longer,
For ol’ Joe has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer
For a Veteran died today.

He won’t be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.

He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing,
‘Tho a Veteran died today.

When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Veteran
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?

The politician’s stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.

While the ordinary Veteran,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.

It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever-waffling stand?

Or would you want a Veteran
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Veteran,
Who would fight until the end.

He was just a common Veteran,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind
us We may need his likes again.

For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Veteran’s part,
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honour
While he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage
At the ending of his days.

Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:
“OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING,
A VETERAN DIED TODAY.”

PLEASE, If you are proud of our Vets, then pass this on.

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Dick in response: I pass along the above in its entirety.  I note the swipe at “politicians”, who at least till now are elected by citizens in this country, and thus represent all of us at our best and at our worst, rather than as a separate class of characters.

POSTNOTE:  I come from a family full of military tradition, including a grandson presently in the Marines.  I understand and appreciate the military from the service level, including my own.  Recently I sent a few people a memory about my Uncle Frank, killed on the USS Arizona Dec 7, 1941, with a poignant commentary from his father, my grandfather Bernard, in Feb. 1942.  You can read it here: Bernard Frank and John Grabenske.

I note that my time with the Army began right after my graduation from college, which was 60 years ago, in early December, 1961.  Like all young people back then, I had a draft card, and was subject to the draft.  The Vietnam era had begun, but was as yet unknown to most of us.  Personally, I decided to volunteer for the draft, mostly to get it over with, and began my two years in January, 1962.  I didn’t like the Army, but never have I regretted the time in service.  I’d support mandatory service for all young people, but I’d much rather it be something other than military emphasis.  “Thank you for your service” should mean any community service….

 

2 replies
  1. Jeff D Pricco
    Jeff D Pricco says:

    Thanks Dick, yes Armistice Day is a big deal in the UK. about 20,000 British soldiers died on the first day of the battle on JUly 01. Over 100,000 died over the 4.5 month period of the “battle”, another 400,000+ were wounded(some of these later died or were terribly incapacitated by their injuries). The carnage of the “war to end all wars” was terrible.

    Reply
  2. Vincent Petersen
    Vincent Petersen says:

    It is also St. martin of Tours Day – patron of pacifists and conscientious objectors. I prefer to celebrate the armistice and the efforts of ending all wars – when enough of us refuse to bow before the gods of war the wars will cease.

    Reply

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