Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veterans Day

Another thing that is unique to November is Veterans Day, or Armistice Day as it was originally called.  Armistice Day was created to celebrate the cessation of hostilities in World War I, the Great War as it was termed before another Great War came along and they had to start numbering the world wars.

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 a cease fire went into effect between Germany and the Allied forces fighting in France.  Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day after World War II in the United States and to Remembrance Day in the countries of the British Commonwealth, including Canada.  A famous poem written by Canadian physician and lieutenant colonel John McRae in 1915 after he witnessed the death of his friend the day before is called In Flanders Fields.  Flanders, France, was the scene of much of the worst fighting of World War I.  The poem is here:

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.

In many countries, especially those of the British Commonwealth, there is a moment of silence at 11:00 a.m. on November 11.  In the United States a wreath is commonly placed on the Tomb of the Unknowns (or Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) in Arlington National Cemetery.   Also on Veterans Day the mat on which the Tomb Guards walk sentinel duty, 24 hours a day, seven days a week without exception, is replaced, as it is on Memorial Day in May.

The Tomb of the Unknowns received the unknown soldier who had been killed in France in World War I on November 21, 1921.

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