In 1918 at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the Great War, the "War to end all Wars" was officially over. Millions of men had died in a war so viscious that we couldn't even imagine it today. The Machine Gun was first used and the French Generals marched their men directly into them refusing to acknowledge that such a weapon was appropriate for warfare. Hand to hand combat was the norm and trench warfare gave new meaning to the word barbarous. Poison gas was routinely used, blinding thousands and ruining the lungs of thousands of others. The "Tank" was first used and lack of any anti-tank weapon made it a fearsome weapon indeed.
America's involvement was short, only one year while the European nations had been at it for over four years, depleting an entire generation of the finest their countries had to offer. Now it was finally over and the world was made safe and the cry "Never Again" was heard throughout the world. "Never Again", it seemed only meant twenty years when the war clouds gathered again over Europe and our inevitable involvement came a few short years later. This one cost us big time with over 500,00 dead!
OK, but now the world was safe for democracy. Well it was, kinda, until Korea in 1950. Another 60,000 dead but hey, we stopped communism! Poorly equipped and even more poorly trained troops were poured into the South Korean peninsula where they were slaughtered. When captured by the North Koreans they were executed. They were driven back to below Seoul before the Marines landed at Inchon in September and the tide turned. Before long they had driven deep into North Korea approaching the capitol when the Chinese decided they wanted part of the action. They hit on Thanksgiving night 1950 and the results were devastating. The Chinese employed human wave tactics sending thousands of troops in suicidal attacks against US positions with predicable results, horrible losses and terror. But once again we rallied and "won" This only cost us 60,000 or so dead.
Hardly ten years later it started again in a place few of us had ever heard of, Viet Nam. First it was just a few "advisors" and then a gradual build up until we had 500,000 men committed. Not to worry though, it was for a good cause and the fact that the French had gotten their butts kicked trying the same thing never seemed to occur to us. We left that one with a little bit less honor than our previous attempts in that we didn't "win" but then it only cost of 58,000 of our best and finest so we decided just to not talk about that one.
Our troops have been put in harm's way many times since then, Grenada, Haiti, Panama, Desert Storm and a few we never heard of but in spite of all the horror our troops have always been there and whatever the political outcome they, the troops, always acquitted themselves with honor, courage and bravery.
On this, Veterans Day 1998 we all need to focus on the sacrifices of those brave men who have gone before us. We need to do what we can to make our communities aware that this is not just another three day weekend or a time to get some great bargains. It needs to be emphasized that this is a day set aside to honor those who gave their lives, blood, and all too often their broken bodies and minds for our and our children's sake. We owe that to all who have gone before and as importantly to our children who need to know what others have done for them so they can live in freedom. Perhaps a good start would be on that 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month we pause and remember by giving thanks for what they gave us.