A thirty-day exercise in pausing, reflecting, appreciating, and giving thanks for simple things.
Yes, it’s fitting to talk of remembrance on November 11. The year was 1918, and the end of “the war to end all wars” was officially declared at “the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” No one ought ever forget the horrors, sacrifices, and deaths, everyone was told at the time. Sadly, some forgot much sooner than anyone expected when World War II erupted in 1937.
While the United States calls this day Veteran’s Day, some nations call it Poppy Day, some call it Armistice Day. No matter the wording, the sentiment is the same over all the world: Do not forget. Always remember. More than 16 million died, more than 20 million wounded, soldiers and civilians alike, in the four-year war. Thirty-thousand died in a single day.
Leaders at the time believed the fight would be swift and strategies would be successful. They all learned war is unpredictable. Thirty countries were involved. More than 25,000 miles of trenches were dug, to protect soldiers on all sides. It was the first time tanks, planes, and naval aircraft carriers were used in war. Explosions in France were heard in London.
On Christmas Eve 1914, soldiers fighting on opposite sides put down their guns and sang carols to each other across the trenches. The next day, some even exchanged greetings and food items and cigarettes. It was the only such Christmas truce throughout the war.
The three things that easily turn my thoughts to this war … red poppies …“trench warfare”… and “Christmas Truce.” Whether these three things are gifts of remembrance can be debated. But for me, they always give me pause and I remember.
We ought not to forget.