Friday, November 11, 2011

The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month

In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.
-José Narosky
This year adds an extra 11 to the remembrance of Veterans Day on 11/11/11.

It was at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 that the Germans signed the Armistice to end the Western Front of World War One. This event is celebrated in many allied countries as Veterans Day, Armistice Day (France), Poppy Day (South Africa), National Day (Poland), Day of Peace (Belgium) and Remembrance Day (British Commonwealth). While the war in Europe ended on this day, hostilities continued in the Russian Empire and in parts of the old Ottoman Empire. 

President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed an Armistice Day the following year on November 11, 1919. However it was not until May 13, 1938 that congress made the 11th of November a legal holiday; "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'."

In 1953 Al King, a shoe store owner in Emporia, Kansas, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who served in World War I. With the help of Rep. Ed Rees, also from Emporia, a bill was passed by Congress and signed into law on May 26, 1954 by President Dwight Eisenhower. Congress amended this act on November 8, 1954, replacing "Armistice" with Veterans, and it has been known as Veterans Day ever since.

In 1971 the holiday was moved to the fourth Monday of October in accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. It was moved back to November 11 in 1978.

In many parts of the world people take a two-minute moment of silence at 11:00 a.m. as a sign of respect for the roughly 20 million who died in the war. The Service of Remembrance in many Commonwealth countries generally includes the sounding of "Last Post," followed by the two minutes of silence, followed by the sounding of "Reveille" (or, more commonly, "The Rouse"), and finished by a recitation of the "Ode of Remembrance." The "Flowers of the Forest", "O Valiant Hearts", "I Vow to Thee, My Country" and "Jerusalem" are often played during the service. Services also include wreaths laid to honour the fallen, a blessing, and national anthems.

The poppy's significance to Remembrance Day is a result of Canadian military physician John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fields. Poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their red colour an appropriate symbol for the bloodshed of trench warfare. An American YMCA Overseas War Secretaries employee, Moina Michael, was inspired by McCrae's poem, and made an effort to have the poppy adopted as a national symbol of remembrance, and succeeded in having the National American Legion Conference adopt it two years later. Some people choose to wear white poppies, which emphasises a desire for peaceful alternatives to military action. The Royal Canadian Legion suggests that poppies be worn on the left lapel, or as close to the heart as possible.

Bottom Line

For grammarians, please note that while Veteran’s Day and Verterans’ Day are grammatically correct, the official spelling of the holiday in the US is Veterans Day with no apostrophe.

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