“At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month….”
Those were the words of a telegram that told the world that WWI was over. The Armistice with Germany had been signed. The “war to end all wars” was finished.
Only, it didn’t end all wars. In less than 20 years, we were in WWII. The Korea, then Vietnam, then the Middle East… and it goes on.
But Armistice Day remained, a tribute to those who fought. In the US, it became Veterans Day. In the UK, Remembrance Sunday. Other places, other names, but the same reason: To say THANK YOU to those who fought; the ones who came home and the ones who didn’t.
For the last ten years, my mother, daughter and I have tried to make every memorial service we could get to at the GeraldB.H.SolomonSaratogaNationalCemetery, where my father is buried amid rows of silent monuments to those who served. Every war is represented there: not far from Daddy is an unknown Union Soldier brought home from a southern grave a few years ago. In another section, there are even a few Revolutionary war soldiers. And two rows in front of Daddy, a young man who fell in Iran.
We are always touched by the essays of local school children, the music, the acknowledgement of Gold Star Parents, vets and serving military. We have seen a breeze spring up from nowhere on a hot day, unfurling flags with a smart snap. We have heard the bell of the USS Saratoga toll in remembrance. We’ve seen a Bald Eagle flying over the site during a service.
Today, at the end of the service, we had a military fly-by: a WWI biplane and a WWII P-51 Mustang. INCREDIBLE. The Mustang proved the agility that helped win the skies over Europe. The fact the biplane was in the air at all was, to me, amazing and a testament of the love and admiration younger generations have for these planes and their original pilots. Think about it! Spads, Sopwith Camel F1s and DH4s were in production almost ONE HUNDRED YEARS ago. I think the one we saw today was the de Havilland DH4, but I admit to not really knowing. The only War Bird I know on sight is WWII’s Corsair. Everything else, I just watch in the air whenever and however I can, and admire the abilities of those piloting these glorious metal birds. I wonder if Daddy’s Uncle Joe worked on Mustangs. All I really know about him is that he died on an airstrip in England in WWII; they said it was sabotage.
And now I am home, still feeling the pride of knowing there were and are people willing and able to put on the uniform and do a job that needs to be done to protect the rest of the world. I don’t like war, but I am not naive enough to think we will ever see the end of it. There are too many theologies; too many egomaniacs.
So, to all vets, be you Yank, Canook, Brit, Kiwi, Aussie or whatever: THANK YOU. To the families of such, Thank You… your family’s sacrifices were not in vain, and you do not grieve alone for those who didn’t come home.