Understanding Its Monumental Meaning:
100 Years Post-Armistice
The Armistice that officially ended World War I was done on November 11th, 1918 in secret on a railroad car in a forest somewhere in France.
In Flanders Field
By: John McRae, 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
A poem which many elementary school children throughout the United States had to commit to memory and recite aloud in unison during Armistice Day commemorations in this country from the end of the Great War in 1918 through until the mid 20th century.
Armistice (noun) – a temporary suspension of hostilities by agreement of the warring parties
When I was a child, I mistakenly assumed the word “Armistice” was interchangeable with “Veteran” due to its official Day being so close on the calendar to the Day of Remembrance associated with Veterans in this country. That was of course an incorrect assumption. And after reviewing its official definition did it just recently dawn on me the “A” word that I had gotten wrong the first time around had merely been replaced with an assumption that was equally erroneous given the adult me presumed “Armistice” was just a fanciful way to describe the concept of “Peace” at large. Wrong again!
It was only with the approaching Armistice Centennial that I finally understood the “A” word has nothing to do with “Peace” at all. An agreed upon “cease fire” between warring parties, yes, and even then only for a temporary length of time, but representing “Peace”? Certainly not! The concept of “Victory” wasn’t even part of the basic equation.
“We’re sorry. All assumptions you have deduced until this time have been consistently wrong. Please make a note of it.” says the automated History operator.
11AM, November 11th, 1918.
The Armistice was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
What had begun in an almost fun (?) light hearted way in 1914 where soldiers on either side marched off to war while being joyfully wished “Bon Voyage”, since all parties involved assumed they’d be returning at most in a month ended up becoming a global conflict that would drag on for 4 seemingly endless years until November 11th, 1918 when a “cease fire” was called.
Before the Great War there existed an Old World consisting of Empires and Colonies so extensive the Sun never set, where people who were “non-white” were seen as the “burden” of those who were. At War’s end, there existed a New (er) (ish) World where imperial monarchs were replaced with military leaders who in turn removed the borders of former empires by simply hacking out haphazard territory lines of the victors’ spoils showing however much extra surface area each member of the “Extente” now claimed was officially theirs.
If anything, the hacking was done with a proper ruler.
Where the First World War began with the heralded death of one man, ended on the first Armistice Day with over 37 million having lost their lives across the globe.
World War I was such a continental stale mate that an agreement was hurriedly finalized only a few days before it officially took place at a secret location with both sides’ armies being left unaware and fighting all the way to a mere few minutes before the stroke of 11 on the morning of the 11th day of the 11th month. The last soldier to die in battle ironically was not German or French or English, but an American named Henry Gunther who was shot and killed at 10:58 AM on the morning of Armistice Day.
One hundred years later on its centennial, the nagging question remains. Do we make a valiant attempt at trying to comprehend how the effects and aftershocks from this “Great War” which reverberate into the present day will continue to mark our future or do we do the same ole’ same ole’ and like the definition of the word “Armistice” not really understand exactly what it means and not really care, either?
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