Veterans Day 100 years after the armistice: editorial

November 11, 2018

Veterans Day 100 years after the armistice: editorial

Among the World War I letters that Veterans for Peace will read today to mark the day 100 years ago that the “war to end all wars” ended -- but failed to end all wars -- is one from “Black Jack Pershing.” U.S. Army Gen. John J. Pershing commanded American Expeditionary Forces on the Western Front in World War I. Plain Dealer reporter Brian J. Albrecht included an excerpt of Pershing’s letter in his Nov. 4 article on the event:

“There is no glory in killing. There is no glory in maiming men. There are the glorious dead, but they would be more glorious living.”

It is an appropriate quote for Veterans Day, when we specifically honor all who came home, as well as their comrades who fell. It is a day that has its origins in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the guns of World War I officially fell silent with signing of the armistice. As the world took stock of the horrific human toll of that war -- France lost more than 4 percent of its prewar population, mostly men of fighting age, while Britain saw its upper classes ravaged -- Armistice Day was born. And from it, in 1954 in the United States, came Veterans Day. 

At the 11th hour today, Chief Curator Eric Rivet of the Cleveland History Center, 10825 East Boulevard, will provide a special centennial program about Cleveland’s role in the war, its final day, and an overall look at World War I. The hourlong program from 11 a.m. to noon is free with museum admission. Advance registration is available online at the Western Reserve Historical Society website.

At the 15th hour today -- 3 p.m. in nonmilitary time -- with an eye to deterring future wars, Veterans for Peace, Chapter 39 Northeast Ohio, will read Pershing’s letter, and other letters from those who fought in WWI and other conflicts, at the Shaker Heights Public Library, 16500 Van Aken Boulevard, Shaker Heights. 

At the 11th hour today, church and tower bells will toll at Old Stone Church in Cleveland, and in Berea, in Oberlin, and around the country and around the world at 11 a.m. local time -- and even in your home, if you have a bell to ring. The efforts by carillonneurs, handbell ringers and others is in remembrance of all who served in what once was called the Great War, echoing the bells of joy that tolled worldwide as word of the armistice spread. Earlier this year, a “Bells of Peace” proclamation from the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission called “upon all Americans across the nation to toll bells in remembrance of those who served in World War I at 11:00 a.m. on November 18, 2018.” So if you have a bell, ring it, and think of the doughboys. And if not, find a carillon near you, listen to the bells, and remember.

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