It was a lovely title that didn’t hold true.
For a time, World War I was considered “the war to end all wars.” The war came to its official end with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. However, hostilities actually concluded via an armistice between the Allied forces and Germany that took effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918.
Nov. 11 was officially Armistice Day for decades, a time to honor those who’d fought in World War I. In the mid-1950s, “Armistice” was dropped in favor of “Veterans.” By then, World War II and the Korean conflict had rendered “the war to end all wars” a misnomer.
Federal legislation led to a shifting observance of Veterans Day for much of the 1970s. The official designation of Nov. 11 was restored commencing in 1978. By that time, so many surviving American military personnel were living with mental and physical scars from the Vietnam conflict.
IN THE DECADES SINCE, our servicemen and women have served — and often suffered — through military entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan. War is an enduring national theme.
“The war to end all wars” has become a joke with a bad punchline. And Veterans Day, this year falling on Monday, has never been more relevant.
Minus a draft, military service is an abstract concern for many of us. The burden of our national defense seems to fall squarely on someone else.
But veterans, few in number statistically, are part of our community fabric. Their service spans generations. Veterans could be our grandparents, parents, friends, neighbors, children and even grandchildren. Perhaps even you, reader.
Veterans have served in times of war and relative peace. In wartime, the conflicts they’ve been part of have run the gamut of public approval and disdain. No matter. By choice or conscription, veterans have been in harm’s way when many of the rest of us haven’t.