11th of November is a special day around many parts of the world.
Veterans Day – This is celebrated in the United States and is a national holiday designated to honor all military veterans who have served or who are currently serving. Wikipedia notes, “Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving.”
Remembrance Day – Wikipedia notes that this “is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth of Nations member states since the end of the First World War to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty.”
What is not commonly known is that this is a special year of remembrance. The ode at the bottom of this post was written 100 years ago on the cliffs of Cornwall in the southwest corner of England. This poem was written as a tribute to those who had already fallen in the Great War of 1914-1918. It was the first national consideration of remembrance for those who fell in battle.
World War I, or The Great War, was the war that was to end all wars, but much of it ended up being a stalemate in the muddy trenches of Belgium, France, Holland, and Germany. Many of the war dead fell to disease and it is considered one of the bloodiest periods of human warfare. It would not be until World War II that the number of dead would exceed the number who died in World War I. On a global scale, the world had not seen such carnage and bloodshed since the Mongol Invasion in the 13th and 14th centuries.
Many are not aware that tens of thousands of boys no older than 14 were allowed to go to war and fight in the trenches. While America joined the war in late 1917 and ultimately lost approximately 117,000 to battle and disease, what is often forgotten that this was not even 1% of the total death casualty of between 17-22 million. There is a reason why this Remembrance Day is special to many countries.
America has been blessed beyond measure and does not know the shame and disgrace in modern history of having troops march, rape, and pillage their way across this land. Europe has known this and the scars of these wars can still be found on lonely hillsides and in cemeteries. Many fell and were never recovered – known only to God.
Sadly, in this modern 21st century, we are but 100 years from the carnage that ravaged predominantly Europe in World War I. In those years, many have forgotten the true price of freedom. Young people know little to nothing about why this war even took place, and certainly are not taught why we should remember. History always repeats itself, and the one aspect that will eventually doom us is that we never learn from history. The Great War was not an insignificant dot on the landscape, but one that broke nations and would eventually lead to the Second World War in which an estimated 2.5% of the world’s population died, or between 60-85 million.
Thankfully, there are still some who do not forget those who died so long ago. We will remember those “for our tomorrow, gave their today.” And for all who served, whether fallen in battle or living veterans, we salute and honor you. You have stood in the gap where many refused to go so that we can enjoy the freedom of today. Many will never know and cannot know the sacrifice that still haunts the dreams of many, but they know.
To forget their sacrifice will be the greatest disrespect we can give to all veterans, past and present.
“They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.” — Laurence Binyon, For the Fallen, Ode of Remembrance