Although, tomorrow, November 12, is the “official” Veterans’ Day, so that federal and state offices, courts and schools can shut down, today is the real Veterans’ Day. In 1918, World War I officially ended on the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month. By the time that clock stopped ticking, the death toll from that war (originally known as “the Great War,” since it was inconceivable that another war, even worse in scope, would happen again in 20 odd years) was at about eight and a half million. America, which had entered the war only 1917, and mercifully helped bring it to its conclusion, lost about 126,000 troops.
Sadly, the War’s end did not see the end of mass deaths worldwide. Troop and refugee movements created the perfect vector for the Spanish Influenza pandemic which killed between 50 – 100 million people worldwide in 1918 and 1919. Small wonder that the 1920s were a time of remarkably frivolity. People had spent too many years walking through the deep, dark Valley of the Shadow of Death to have any stomach for being serious. Unfortunately, reality caught up with them during the 1930s, with its reminder that the human capacity for creating mass destruction is almost unlimited.
And where that capacity for destruction exists, there have always been Americans who voluntarily or because called upon by their country, have stepped forward to block those malevolent movements. American men and women have repeatedly gone to battle to protect and expand liberty, both at home and abroad. To those men and women, those who died, through war or time; those who are living and fighting still; and those who have retired from the field, I say thank you so much.