What started as a feud among anarchists, kings, czars and kaisers in 1914 grew into a lethal conflagration known today as World War I. That war consumed the lives of 8,528,831 combatants and left another 21 million maimed, wounded and scarred. Millions of non-combatants also died from the violence, hunger and deprivations brought on by the battles.
After four years of conflict, the horror of that war ended at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918. A year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day to honor the members of the military who served the United States during that war. Since then the day has evolved into Veterans Day. But the purpose is still the same, to set aside a day to honor the sacrifices made by those who serve in the military and to consider how those sacrifices have kept us a free nation, where individual freedoms abound, and have protected others from tyranny.
Today is the official Veterans Day, however, the local recognition service will be held on the Elkhart County Courthouse lawn at 11 a.m. Monday. For those who have never taken an hour out of their busy day to attend this event, we encourage them to do so. Also, go early. That will allow time to go up to the war memorial and touch the cold, brass, individual name plaques riveted to the memorial. It is a moving experience to read the names of the local soldiers, sailors and airmen. The family names will be familiar to everyone.
Reading the list is hard on the heart. Each name represents a man whose life was cut short and a family who felt the great weight of grief and emotional turmoil when they learned their loved one would not be coming back to their loving arms. Taken together, the names represent a communal loss that still reaches deep into the families of Goshen, Nappanee, Wakarusa, Millersburg, New Paris, Elkhart and the rural areas of the county.
Unfortunately, the list of names on the memorial is incomplete. There are several members of the military who were killed in one of our nation’s conflicts, but are not listed due to oversight or the passage of time. We hope that at some point these names can be added to this honor roll of heroes.
Speaking for our community today, we are forever grateful for the sacrifice of our veterans.