Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month"

It was 11:00am on November 11,1918 that what was once known as "The Great War" or "The War To End All Wars", or even just "The World War" came to end end with an armistice put into effect by the warring powers. Though it was a ceasefire, it was in effect a surrender by the German Empire and their Austrian and Turkish allies. This war to end all wars, as we all know, was not to be; there was much worse to come in 1939, plus dozens of other conflicts worldwide in the years post 1945.

November 11th was at first celebrated as Armistice Day but has since become designated as Veteran's Day, to honor all who have served in America's armed forces. I'm an Air Force veteran; my first two years were spent during the last two years of America's direct involvement in combat operations in Vietnam. My Dad served in the Pacific at the end of World War II and was part of the occupation force of Japan. His brothers served during the Korean War. Members of our extended family were in the military during peacetime, and during the first Gulf War, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Last November my Dad and I obtained some family pictures from my cousin. Among them were a few my grandfather, Tony, and my Uncle Joe in uniform in the months just after the First World War had ended.

The first picture (from a post card) shows a group including my grandfather in Paris in March, 1919. I'm pretty sure he is the guy standing in the back, second from the left, next to the soldier with the dress uniform cap.

This is the text of the postcard Tony sent to my great-grandmother back in New Jersey.
Dear Mother- This is a bunch of the boys sight seeing in Paris. This YMCA furnished the trip, which was fine. Tony

Grandpa Tony died when I was a little kid and I don't have that many memories about him....except that he was a man of few words- obviously.

And this is Tony with his future brother in law, my Great Uncle Joe. Joe also died when I was really young. I didn't realize he was so short- note that he is standing on a step, and is still a full head shorter than Tony.

Veteran's Day really hit home yesterday and seems especially poignant this year afer the horrible events at Fort Hood. I lived on Air Force bases in Utah, in the United Kingdom, and two in Texas. You feel safe and secure in these communities within communities. Obviously on military installations there is less crime then "outside"- most of the bad stuff that goes on are misdemeanors that are dealt with with by Article 15 punishment (or Captain's Mast in the Navy), and then there is the occasional court martial. Despite what you may see on JAG or NCIS, the rate of violent crime on military installations is relatively low.

No one expects a major to walk into a room and to start shooting anyone wearing a uniform. I'm still shocked and horrified by the thought of went on.

If you're reading this, take a moment to thank a vet or an active duty service man or woman. Its not about politics or support for or against government policy. Its about honoring those who have given of themselves in our defense.

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