There are few people alive today who can provide first-hand memories of World War I.
Its devastating and bloody toll on the United States and other nations remains vibrant in the minds of our country, though, through the chronicles of words and images.
Imagine the fear that went through children and adults as for the first time ever they experienced what later became known as a “total war” because the entire populations of the largest nations were involved in one form or another.
By the end, more than 5.1 million lives were lost — 116,516 of them American. Millions more were scarred forever through the loss of friends and loved ones or illnesses attributed to the war.
Tragically, the United States would see more wars — from its roles in World War II in 1941, Korea in 1950 and Vietnam in 1955 to its continuing mission today in the War on ISIL.
The unfortunate reality of maintaining peace is that there are too often those who want to challenge it. That requires a dedication to vigilance in both times of aggression and times of peace. Thousands of citizens have accepted that responsibility and weighty challenge through the years and served in our military.
This week, we honor them and those who will continue the tradition of protecting this country in the future. Many groups and schools took time to recognize that service during ceremonies — most starting at 11 a.m. to recall that it was the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month when the world’s first massive confrontation came to an end.
It’s encouraging to see such ceremonies, especially those that ensure children who only know about some of the darkest times in this nation’s history through their studies know about the importance of our military branches.
Although the first Armistice Day was on Nov. 11, 1919 — the one-year anniversary of the end of the first world war — it was not until 1926 that a congressional resolution called for an annual observance and not until 1938 that Nov. 11 would become a national holiday. In 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day.
Unlike Memorial Day, with which today is commonly confused, today recognizes not just those who have died in war but all those who have served in defense and protection of their nation.
Show respect and thanks to them and all who have been willing to keep watch over us.
We hope those who were unable to attend an event to show their support and thanks will take a moment to pause and reflect on the importance of all veterans’ commitment.