On November 11, 2019 America celebrates “Veteran’s Day”; a date chosen to nationally recognize the men and women who stepped forward and shouldered the need to uphold and protect freedom.  But why on this day?

The answer lies in history.  By November of 1918 war had raged across Europe for over four years.  Joining April 6, 1917, America became one of the Allied Nations along with Britain, France, and Russia.  Called “The War to End All Wars”, WWI would come to be considered one of the deadliest human conflicts.  Over 70,000,000 military personal were involved and by 1918 it is estimated military and civilian casualties reached 16,000,000.  Factor in genocides and the fatal spread of an influenza pandemic, a direct result of the of the fighting, and the number leaps to over 50,000,000 worldwide.

Sickened by the expense of human life, the wholesale destruction of homelands, and ceaseless cost of war, on November 11, 1918 at 11:00 o’clock a.m. the nations of the world enacted the first armistice, or agreement to cease fire.  This would come to be seen as the initial step towards peace.  Recorded for posterity, the date was declared “Armistice Day”.  Set aside in the hope humanity would never again make the same mistake by pausing to reflect on the violence in the past, the day was observed with solemn reflection.  Unfortunately, a mere 21 years would pass before the start of World War II.   Shortly into this second conflict a vote was called to change the name.  European countries adopted “Remembrance Day” as a time for recognition of their fallen military.  America renamed it “Veteran’s Day” in honor of those who returned home alive.

Our country will observe “Veteran’s Day” in various ways.  Across the United States there will be meals at local restaurants, assemblies at local schools, flags will wave proudly and national anthems will play across various media. Videos, posts and memes will fill screens everywhere.  People will shake hands with strangers and thank those in and out of uniform.  It will be, and has become, a proud day of celebration in the civilian world.

In other places, however, there will still be a time of profound silence at 11:00 a.m.  Among themselves, those who understand the meaning of this day with a deeper wisdom, will stand together in reflection at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  Because it is for this – this universally marked minute when the world called for an end to bloodshed – that these men and women chose to wear a uniform.

The Ottumwa Family YMCA proudly counts many veterans as staff, members and guests.  It is our honor to say “thank you” to those men and women who are a vital part of our community.


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