What a wonderfully American story. It may or may not be true, which may make it even more American. Mark Twain would understand. Besides, this newspaper happens to be in the South. Can a good story really be told if it has to be 100 percent factually true?
The president of the United States at the time of our story--it was a man named Woodrow Wilson--invited some veterans of the First World War to the White House for a meal. Call it a photo-op. A former university president, Woodrow Wilson knew from politics.
Back then it wouldn't have been called the First World War. They thought of it as simply The Great War. They had no way of knowing a greater one would follow. Maybe it was a mercy. The thought would have been hard to bear after all the world had suffered by 1918.
At the time, entrepreneurs across the country were learning new ways to can food for long-term storage. Moms were learning how to open those cans and heat the food inside just before Dad got home from the factory. And in 1919, there was a tasty dish going around that was all the rage. In one bite, you could get meat, dairy, grain and maybe a veggie or two.
So when the doughboys got to the White House to celebrate America's victory in The War to End All Wars, the president wanted the main course on the menu to be . . . .
Molto bene! How American. For it was as American a choice as moo goo gai pan or tacos. Maybe with some imported beer to wash it all down. Talk about an all-American meal.
President Wilson and the doughboys at the dinner called it a celebration of Armistice Day. For that was the day a year earlier--the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month--when the great powers of the time decided to stop the slaughter. For a few years, at least.
Today we call it Veterans Day. And it's officially observed today.
It's not just a day off. Or it shouldn't be. That is, if you get the day off. Most folks don't. Indeed, some of us won't even know today is Veterans Day until we drop by the bank and find the doors locked. Or notice that the mail didn't come. The kids in school might get a lesson about Veterans Day. But they'll be in school to hear it. They don't get today off either.
These eventful--all too eventful--days, the rest of us should take a minute, or more, to recognize those who've stood on the wall for this country.
The ending of the First World Catastrophe happened 100 years ago, which makes today special, if you're into round numbers. No war just ends with the flick of a switch. Or the signing of an armistice. The artillery pieces might have gone silent on the 11th hour of Nov. 11, 1918, but the shooting didn't stop. A state of war would exist for months after the formal signing as military commanders made land grabs all along the lines.
As in most wars, both sides demonized the people on the other side. Which made it difficult to call off the grunts when the orders came down. Hate can be like poison gas that way--it is hard to contain, and any wind can blow it.
The Great War. What over-confidence man has when he applies such labels. As if a larger, more deadly, more all-encompassing war wasn't in the near future. Complete with genocide and nuclear weapons. Which is why nobody calls World War One the Great War any longer. And Nov. 11 is no longer Armistice Day, but Veterans Day.
Those who fought in the first world war are past it all now. And have been for years, mostly. So let us not celebrate only doughboys, but all veterans today.
SOMEBODY in your neighborhood might have brushed sand off his MRE in Iraq back in 2003. Somebody at your church might have brushed sand off his MRE at Fort Sill, Okla., in 1983. Those folks should be thanked.
Somebody you know might have lost a limb in this nation's recent wars. Or maybe in Korea. Or maybe got cut to pieces running through concertina wire during training exercises at night. (It happens. Trust us.)
There might be a member of the National Guard in your family who served in the 1980s and never fired a weapon in anger. Or fear. Then again, you might have a Marine in your family who went to war three times. Both should be thanked today.
You might work with a woman who flew helicopters over Afghanistan. Or you might work with a man who flew helicopters over Alabama. Today we recognize them all.
In a way, it's too bad that the first time some of us will recognize today's holiday will be when we find the library's doors locked. But, in another way, it might be our veterans' own fault. Veterans Day seems to be a much quieter holiday than Valentine's or New Year's or even Halloween. That's because this country is so ... secure. The enemy is still out there, always looking for a soft target, but he's on the run. And in his own country, for the most part. No foreign power will be planting their flag in this country anytime soon. Thanks to our veterans.
A quiet holiday? We get the feeling most veterans wouldn't trade a quiet salute and thank-you for firecrackers and flowers anyway.
We should do so every second Monday in November.
And not just then.
Editorial on 11/12/2018