On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918, the Armistice began, ending World War I -- the Great War, which was to have been the "War to End War" and to make the world "Safe for Democracy." That's what Woodrow Wilson promised when he got the U.S. involved. He also promised a 1 percent cap on income tax. That didn't work out, either.
My daddy used to tell me a story about that day in history. He was 6 years old, hoping to live three more weeks to become seven. A flu epidemic was sweeping the whole world, including LaGrange, Ga., where he lived. He was bedridden with the flu when the war ended. Every church bell in LaGrange began to ring at the appointed time and, delirious with fever, he thought that he had died and was hearing the bells of heaven pealing his arrival.
I suppose something like that would make an impression on any 6-year-old boy. Obviously he survived.
Nov. 11 became known as Armistice Day in this country. A lady from Good Hope -- just down the road from Athens -- was responsible for making the poppy a symbol of remembrance for those who served in France during the war.
Ms. Michael graduated from Lucy Cobb Institute and the Georgia State Teachers College and was on staff at the University of Georgia when America entered the war. I used to teach about her when I was an eighth-grade Georgia history teacher, and I have driven the stretch of U.S. Highway 78 that is named in her honor thousands of times while en route to Athens from my home in Conyers.
After the war, she started wearing a red poppy on her clothes in honor of those service members who fought in the war. She was inspired by the poem "In Flanders Field," which talks about the poppies growing between the rows of crosses at the military cemetery there. Eventually, because of her efforts, the American Legion Auxiliary began selling silk poppies around Armistice Day to provide funds for assisting disabled veterans--a tradition that still exists.
Of course we have fought many wars since 1918 -- too many. Now this day is called Veterans Day and is set aside to honor all the veterans who have fought in all our nation's wars -- and those who have served in time of peace as well.
Last week our nation went to the polls and exercised our right to choose our own leaders. If you didn't vote, don't complain about the people the electorate picked. If you don't like the options you had to choose from, run yourself. That right to vote was not given to us by our statesmen, back when we had them in this country, or our politicians. That right, and all our rights, was purchased with the blood of soldiers who don't get to make policy. They just get to leave their home and family and stand in harm's way on our account and, if need be, lay down their lives on the altar of liberty.
Now, that's a pretty noble calling.
I have never served. Vietnam, my generation's war, wasn't particularly appealing politically. When my lottery number was picked -- 360 out of 365 -- I knew that I would be allowed to spend the years of my late teens and early 20s safely ensconced on this side of the water, enjoying life and liberty and pursuing happiness as I saw fit. Some of the finest people I knew weren't so lucky. I could have enlisted, of course -- but I didn't.
But let me assure you of this. I appreciated -- and still appreciate -- those that did. We are losing our World War II vets at a rapid rate and soon Korean War veterans will be quite rare. Our Vietnam era veterans are graying and still facing many physical and emotional problems related to their service. We have lots of vets from Desert Storm and Iraq and the ongoing war in Afghanistan in our midst. No matter our political beliefs -- and the Lord knows we have a lot of strong ones these days -- we should all be grateful for those who wear and have worn the uniform so that we might continue to live in peace and prosper.
What better time to thank them than the day set aside to honor them -- and who better deserves to be honored? You are right. Nobody.
It is a trite expression and good fodder for bumper stickers and posters and the like, but there is also a lot of truth to that old saying. If you were able to read this today, thank a teacher. If you were able to read it in English, thank a veteran.
Semper Fi, Mac. Anchors aweigh. Semper Paratus. Over hill, over dale and off we go into the wild blue yonder. Thank you all for your service to our country.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.