by Joe Parker
On Veteran’s Day, we have always recognized the men and women who have or are serving in America’s Armed Forces. It has been described as a day to not only celebrate their heroism, service and sacrifice, but also to reflect and remember. Most everyone knows about its origin, when on November 11, 1918, at the eleventh hour, all fighting stopped between the Allied nations and Germany, ending World War 1. The actual legal federal holiday was approved by Congress in 1938 as Armistice Day. It wasn’t until 1954, following World War II and the Korean War, that Congress replaced “Armistice” with “Veterans,” amending the original Act to commemorate November 11 -- a day in America when veterans of all wars are honored. This year, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the first World War. A largely forgotten war, seen mostly through old grainy film footage of exploding bombs, young troops marching off to war at a quick pace, and apocalyptic scenes hard to imagine, called no-man’s land. The legacy of this war is hard to imagine. There are still areas of France that are off limits due to the unexploded ordnance.
World War I took the lives of more than 9 million soldiers; 21 million were wounded. Civilian casualties caused indirectly by the war numbered close to 10 million. The two nations most affected were Germany and France, each of which sent some 80 percent of their male populations between the ages of 15 and 49 into battle. The U.S. lost more than 116,000 in a matter of 18 months.
The political disruption surrounding World War I, also contributed to the fall of four venerable imperial dynasties—Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Turkey. Boundaries in the middle east were redrawn resulting in the conflicts of today. It also led directly to World War II. World War I brought about massive social upheaval, as millions of women entered the workforce to support men who went to war, and to replace those who never came back. The first global war also helped to spread one of the world’s deadliest global pandemics, the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people. World War I has also been referred to as “the first modern war.” Many of the technologies we now associate with military conflict—machine guns, tanks, aerial combat and radio communications—were introduced on a massive scale during World War I.
Chemical weapons, such as mustard gas and phosgene, were used for the first time and resulted in Geneva Convention agreements that restricted the use of chemical and biological agents in warfare, and remains in effect today. In some cases it is a red line that must not be crossed. The more than 4 million Americans who served will soon get their own Memorial in Pershing Park, in Washington D.C. It is only right this happens. They earned it.