Putting on my teacher’s hat for just a moment, Veterans Day is observed on November 11 to honor the armed service of all veterans, not to be confused with Memorial Day which remembers the men and women who died while serving.
Previous to 1954, November 11 marked the anniversary of the German signing of the Armistice that ended World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 and was referred to as Armistice Day.
Having grown up with paternal grandparents and great-grandmother, a maternal grandfather, and a host of extended family who had experienced and served in the Great War, the name Armistice Day continued to be used throughout our family and that is what I think of each November.
Stories from the WWI battlefield were never spoken, even when questions were asked. My grandparents had neighbor boys who would come and beg my grandfather to tell them about the war; he would say, “Those are not times I care to talk about,” and he never wavered from that.
He did tell us that he was too young to volunteer, but he went with an older brother, both of them intent on enlisting. In 1917 I don’t know what kind of ID was required if any; at any rate Grandpa lied about his age and was able to sign up.
Spending his first weeks keeping a very low profile, he said that he was so afraid that he would be found out and sent home. The brothers made it to France where both evidently witnessed much they refused to talk about.
When my dad was 17 in 1942, my grandfather was adamant that he volunteer for the Navy. My dad said that his father never revealed details, but was very firm that his son not be drafted into the army, become a “foot-soldier” and end up “in the trenches.”
“I saw too much of that in France; you’d have a better chance to make it home through the Navy,” were Grandpa’s words my father always remembered. My dad followed the advice and did come home safely.
My grandfather and dad were both what I call patriots. They were proud of their service and always honored all who served. They both took the privilege of voting extremely seriously and felt that “doing your part” was important in all avenues.
Though November 11 and Armistice Day are locked together in my mind, the day does indeed honor all veterans of all wars.