Happy Veterans Day, everyone! From the looks of it, Veterans Day is about the glory of war, the bravery of our soldiers, the awesomeness of our discounts! But it turns out that the way we celebrate this holiday has nothing to do with the way the holiday was intended.
1. It wasn’t even called Veterans Day. Veterans Day used to be called Armistice Day and was a commemoration of when, on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918, the allies and Germans negotiated a cessation of hostilities to what would later be called World War I. On November 11th, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson observed the one year anniversary of Armistice Day in a speech.
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.
2. It was the commemoration of the end of the War to End All Wars. Today, there is no trace of pacifism or anti-militarism in the way we Veterans Day. But, at the time, the war which killed 10 million military members and 7 million civilians and injured 20 million people was called the Great War or the World War or, most significantly, “the war to end all wars.” H.G. Wells called it “The War that Will End War” in a Daily News article published on August 14th, 1914:
This is already the vastest war in history. It is a war not of nations, but of mankind. It is a war to exorcise a world-madness and end an age… For this is now a war for peace. It aims straight at disarmament. It aims at a settlement that shall stop this sort of thing for ever. Every soldier who fights against Germany now is a crusader against war. This, the greatest of all wars, is not just another war—it is the last war!