During the past few years we’ve been observing the centenary of World War I, and now as we move toward the 100th anniversary of the Armistice next year, I’ll share a few thoughts.
Here’s one, for example. Did you know that the holiday we now call Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day for the very reason that it marked the anniversary of the Armistice that ended the fighting in the First World War? The unfortunate intervention of several other wars made the specific date of November 11 less relevant, so the name of the holiday was changed to Veterans Day to honor those who had fought in all of these conflicts.
Remembering that, this is a proper time for further thoughts about Veterans Day and in this post I’m sharing thoughts not only from me, but also links to two important essays I found during the past week. And while I’ve not done many personal blog posts over the past few months, sharing these essays seems like an appropriate opportunity for moving back into my efforts with my personal blog.
Like many others, I was caught up in the observance of the centenary, even from its early days back in 2014, or perhaps even a little earlier. I read much about the war — and the lead-up to the fighting — and my reading on the subject (which continues unabated) hasn’t been particularly limited to either fiction or non-fiction. I’ve done both, reading more books than I could count, I expect.
I also shared three posts as the observance began, as it was my intention to continue sharing thoughts about the Great War (as people in much of the rest of the world — especially in the U.K. — refer to what we Americans call “WWI” or the “First World War”). It was my goal to write about some of the things I’ve learned about what went on during that amazing period in our history. And how what we learned affected what we’ve become as a society.
But as I say. my own efforts got side-tracked, and there wasn’t any long list of Guy’s WWI posts. There were three, though, for anyone who wants to re-visit what I wrote about in my own observance of the centenary at the end of 2014:
Guy’s Homage to WWI: Starting with “The Piano in Wartime: 1914-1918” (December 11, 2014)
Guy’s Homage to WWI: The Very Fine Exhibition at the New York Public Library December 22, 2014), describing “Over Here: WWI and the Fight for the American Mind”
Guy’s Homage to WWI: Holiday Greetings from the Front (December 25, 2014), describing my little group of Three World War I postcards I discovered when I lived in England.
And then yesterday came along, our day of observance, and I spent much the day thinking about what the war meant to us, as citizens so far removed from the time of the First World War and, quite simply, as Americans. And no doubt I’ll continue thinking (and, yes, there will probably be more posts from me on the subject). Why? Because I continue to be inspired, and I want to share what I’m thinking about.
And among other inspirations, just Friday I attended the memorial gathering honoring Thomas J. Fleming, a good friend and very prolific author. Tom was, for me, one of the finest writers I’ve ever known, and he wrote one of the best stories about WWI. It was a novel (Over There, published in 1992), and it was a book that had quite an impact on me. Tom found some notes and stories from his own father, and they sent him, as he put it once to me, “to the stacks of the library to see what else I could find.” As it happened, when Over There was published the book was greeted with much enthusiasm, and the book continues to find new fans (including myself of course) as time goes on.
And now we move toward the actual centenary of the Armistice, the agreement that ended the fighting on the Western Front that went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of November 1918. And even though negotiations went on for six more months, the Armistice did lead to the Treaty of Versailles of June 28 1919 which officially brought World War I to an end.
We will observe the Armistice centenary a year from yesterday, and while I won’t promise anything, I’ll probably share a few more thoughts between now and then. But in this post these thoughts are not from me. As promised earlier, I’ve read two important essays that I want to let friends and colleagues know about.
The first is an excellent essay from the fine people at Foreign Affairs, What America Owes Its Veterans: A Better System of Care and Support, by Phillip Carter. The article offers a good history and analysis of our country’s interactions with its veterans. It’s a real “thought-piece” and well worth reading. And thanks to the publishers Carter’s essay is a “paywall-free” article from Foreign Affairs, so there’s no charge to see this article (if the live link doesn’t work you can use https://goo.gl/WuFrTV to open this article).
And if you have the chance, please also read Ending DACA Will Hurt Immigrant Troops, by Former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates. His opinion piece provides much stimulating content for us on this Veterans Day week-end (again if the live link doesn’t open, please use https://goo.gl/RvQ4SY). In his article, Former Secretary Gates relates how he believes we need legislation to “provide a pathway to citizenship for those immigrants who, among other attributes, are serving or have served in the military….” In light of their service and sacrifice, he points out simply that “it is also the right thing to do.”
Something we might think some more about in this final centenary year of the “war to end all wars.”