When World War I officially ended in 1918 on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the prevailing hope was that the cessation of the “Great War” would bring lasting peace to a globe weary of violence and bloodshed that claimed 10 million lives across four long years.
President Woodrow Wilson would declare the first “Armistice Day” the following November. Parades were held, along with a two-minute suspension of work at 11 a.m. It would take Congress until 1926 to officially recognize the day – and in doing so, passing a concurrent resolution marking the occasion. They pronounced:
Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.
Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.
Wreath-laying ceremonies, along with parades, speeches and other fanfare ,will mark the holiday these next few days. Because the holiday falls on a Saturday this year, federal and state offices are observing the holiday today.
But if we’re to fully and accurately acknowledge the men and women who have valiantly and courageously represented America, we’ll do more than praise them with pomp and pageantry or a day off from work.
We’ll pray for them – and give thanks to God for their service and sacrifice.
The latest available tally finds there are nearly 18 million veterans in America today. The last surviving World War I soldier passed away in 2011. Of the 16 million who served in World War II, there are just 119,000 still alive. Veterans of more recent conflicts, such as the first and second Gulf Wars, stand at 6.9 million.
At Focus on the Family and the Daily Citizen, we give thanks to the Lord for each person who has served our nation in the military. Undoubtedly, each assignment came at great personal sacrifice (and often family), whether physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually – or all of the above.
Setting aside a day to thank veterans is right and proper – but it’s also insufficient. Yes, we need to pray and express our gratitude to the Lord for them daily. But we also need to live in a way that makes us worthy of the blessings and benefits we enjoy because of their service and the protection and safety they provide.
When officials in New York City were preparing to erect a Vietnam War Memorial in lower Manhattan back in 1984, they solicited contributions from veterans to include and feature. One item submitted was a poem by Virginia Dabonka. It was titled, “My Shining Star.”
There’s a Gold Star in my window in memory of you
It lights my darkest hours and turns grey skies blue
There’s a new star in the Heavens that I search for every night
For it stands for faith and courage and a cause you thought was right
You tried once to explain to me, my precious brave young son
Just why we have to fight this war and help get justice done
There’s a Gold Star in my window that will guide me through the years
Even though the road ahead is dark and wet with tears
So sleep on, my gallant hero, for even though you lost, you won
In the heart of a grateful nation, you’re second to none.
Image from Shutterstock.